Oyster fishermen endure the cold and dread the rain

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Oyster fishermen are busy playing "catch up" this new year. That's because rainy weather kept the Mississippi oyster season closed for almost the entire month of December. The season re-opened last week, just as the cold weather got its icy grip on South Mississippi.

Tuesday morning, oystermen were bundled up and enjoying the sunshine.

"It's too cold to tong oysters out there," said one fisherman, as he clutched a hot cup of coffee.

Oyster fishermen dressed warmly for a frigid morning on the water. They'll endure the cold; it's wet weather that's the real enemy.

"It's been good, oysters are there. Just don't need no rain," said one fisherman.

Rain kept oyster season closed for most all of December. One fisherman joked, "We'll be celebrating Christmas January 25, since nobody had any money last month."

"It's been a good season, it's just been closed too much," said one young oysterman.

That lament is echoed all along the oyster docks on this busy Tuesday morning. Other outdoor workers may curse the cold, but not these rugged fishermen.

"I can handle it," said one young man, bundled up in a sweatshirt and gloves.

Shutting down the oyster season for an extended period of time isn't just bad news for the oyster fishermen, it also impacts the livelihood of others, including seafood processors and dock workers.

"Everybody was out, wasn't nobody doing nothing, so it was slow for everybody," said dock worker Guy Alexander.

He was glad to see the season reopen.

"Yes. I might have been happier than the people with the boats," he said, smiling.

Alexander has unloaded oysters dockside for the past two years. He too doesn't mind the cold, as long as there's work available.

"It's been going good. Been a little chilly, but it's been going good. All the boats have been going," he said.

Since the season re-opened last week, the oysters have been plentiful.  As long as the rain stays away, these fishermen won't ask for much more.

It wasn't just the December rains that impacted the oyster industry. Wet weather in late September and October also interrupted the season.

Oyster season traditionally runs through April in Mississippi waters.

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