MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - Calm seas and hot weather greeted fishermen Tuesday morning on the first day of shrimp season in Mississippi. Shrimpers were allowed to drop their nets beginning at 6am Tuesday.
The Captain Thanh was pulling its nets in the Mississippi Sound, with a pod of hungry dolphins close behind. Though the dolphins may feed on the fish by-catch, Thanh Truong wasn't finding many shrimp so far.
"Oh no, no good," said the Vietnamese fishermen, when asked about his early catch on opening day.
He said the few shrimp they've caught are mediums; about 40 to 60 count. Rain and water temperature prior to opening day are often early indicators about the catch.
"The numbers of shrimp fluctuate from year to year. And environmental conditions is the big factor. And this year, the big thing this year, I would describe this as a year that was warm and wet. Ideal conditions for shrimp growth and survival would be warm and dry," said Dale Diaz, who heads the fisheries division at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
Fishermen aboard the Undercover out of Pass Christian were also hard at work.
"Doing pretty good. Glad to be working," said Bobby Pinkerton.
Unlike Captain Truong's small catch, Pinkerton said the shrimp were "pretty plentiful" on opening morning. But this fishing is hard work: High fuel costs, price pressure from cheap imports and long, long hours.
"Probably stay out two or three days at a time," said Pinkerton.
He said he's been looking forward to the season. "Ever since oyster season shutdown," he said.
Marine Patrol will also be working long hours during shrimp season, checking things like turtle excluder devices.
"We had eight boats last night. We had 23 officers on the water, and it went smooth. As you see, we have calm seas out there today. It was a great opening, just not a lot of shrimp," said Rusty Pittman, who is interim marine patrol chief for the DMR.
"Most shrimp boats checked were in compliance; but we did have eight violations, which resulted in eight citations: five for state violations and three for federal. The three federal violations dealt with TEDs [turtle excluder devices]."
But that luck may change. After all, shrimp season lasts nearly a year. Recreational and commercial shrimp season will close at midnight, Dec. 31, 2013, north of the Intracoastal Waterway, and at midnight, April 30, 2014, south of the Intracoastal Waterway. Live-bait shrimping is open year round.
The new DMR executive director also got a firsthand look at shrimp season on opening day. Jamie Miller rode with Marine Patrol for several hours, beginning at around 4:30am.
For the latest updates on the Mississippi shrimp fishery, call the toll-free Shrimp Information Hotline at 1-866-We Trawl (866-938-7295).