Shrimpers prepare to drop nets in unusually early season

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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They lined-up at the last-minute, waiting to load up on fuel and ice. On the eve of the opening of the 2011 Mississippi Shrimp Season, St. Michael's Ice and Fuel Dock was scrambling to keep up with the demand.

"I got about 15 on the list right now and the list was about 70," said David Luke as he looked at the boats on his list.

David Luke owns the east Biloxi business. By noon, he had sold 450 blocks of ice and a trailer-load of ice was on the way.

"You want to get the boats out. You get fuel for them because that's their livelihood, and it really hurts you bad when you can't get the ice to them. That's why it gives you ulcers," said Luke.

Steven Richardson and his three brothers plan to head out Tuesday night to stake out their spots. When asked about what he needs to prepare for the big day, Richardson responded: "Ice, fuel, lots of groceries, and a little bit of beer."

Richardson said while he's glad the season is getting an early start, he's still worried about the shrimp crop.

"It's definitely going to hurt us in the long run," he said. "It'd be smaller shrimp coming out and your prices are lower."

Tam Le is too busy to worry about what could happen to the shrimp if fresh water from the swollen Mississippi River invades the Mississippi Sound.  He's just happy to be working again.

"Last year, we lost the season because of the oil spill. I didn't work. So I'm hoping this year will be a good one, that there will be plenty of shrimp," said Le.

And if they're blessed with a bountiful harvest, David Luke expects to see another hectic day at his dock.

"If they have a bonanza season and they swamp the shrimp down, they all coming in loaded down and it'll be like a parade out here," Luke said.

Luke says some shrimpers will be unloading their catch by the end of the week. According to the DMR, the earliest that shrimp season ever opened before this year was June 1, 2000.

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