BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's shrimp season opened to windy conditions and choppy waters Wednesday morning. It was also one of the earliest openings on record, thanks to shrimp populations peaking early. But not all the numbers are high.
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources counted 162 shrimp boats in Mississippi waters. There were 48 boats located north of Horn Island, 25 located south of Horn Island and 28 along Belle Fontaine. That's about half as many boats as years past.
DMR reported the first shrimpers of the season finding mostly 40/50-count brown shrimp with some large, white shrimp mixed in. Some shrimpers will wait until nightfall when brown shrimp catches tend to be better.
"Salinity levels are dropping in the western sound as a result of the Bonnet Carre spillway openings to relieve Mississippi River flooding. The few shrimpers who worked the far western state waters today [Wednesday] reported small catches of 70/80 count shrimp," said Traci Floyd, Director of the DMR's Shrimp and Crab Bureau.
The DMR's Marine Patrol was out on opening day with six boats, 12 officers, and two dispatchers.
"Shrimp season started slow and the weather could have been better but we didn't experience any calls for rescue; everything went pretty smooth," said Col. Walter Chataginer, Chief of the DMR's Marine Patrol. "All shrimp boats checked were in compliance."
As of Wednesday, 423 commercial shrimp licenses were sold to Mississippi residents, while 162 were sold to shrimpers from out-of-state.
Recreational and commercial shrimp season will close at midnight, Dec. 31, 2011, north of the Intracoastal Waterway, and at midnight, April 30, 2012, south of the Intracoastal Waterway. Live-bait shrimping is open year round.