Shrimpers race to get ready for early start to season

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - The rush is on to get to Mississippi shrimp before the freshwater does. Because of concerns about how river flooding will impact the seafood industry, shrimpers will get to start dropping their nets on May 25th which is weeks earlier than usual.

Bobby Barnett has been fishing for 25 years and can't remember the Mississippi shrimp season ever starting this early. Now he and his crew are spending long days at the Pass Christian harbor in a frenzy to be ready.

"We've got to pick the pace up a little bit," said Barnett. "We got Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. About four more days to get everything together and 18 hour shifts here to get ready to go."

Not all shrimpers are just getting started. James "Catfish" Miller says he harvested 13,000 pounds of shrimp in Louisiana waters near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Those shrimp were baby size with a three to four count size difference from usual. Miller blames the fresh water now running through the estuaries.

"These flood waters. I don't what drastic matters it's going to do to the fishing industry of pushing the shrimp so far out into the Gulf so fast so early into the season," Miller said. "We're really struggling for answers as fishermen because we've been through so many disasters. Through BP, Katrina, and now we're dealing with this. I ain't never seen a flood this big in my life. "

Shrimpers say they believe starting the Mississippi season early is the right move.

Barnett said, "They're making the right move moving it a little early before the water does flush them out of here and they may be gone already. We don't know that "

Another shrimper, Tang Vo, said he's glad to get back to work. "We stay home for a long time. We have nothing to do.That's the problem. Everybody waits for the season to open."

Fishermen say they're eager to see what kind of harvest awaits them in Mississippi waters for the 2011 season.