PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Oyster fisherman Danny Harris made history this morning. He unloaded the first Mississippi oysters of the season at around 10:30. Harris is also the first to deliver fresh oysters to the new harbor in Pass Christian. Harris brought in seven sacks of oysters, which is the legal daily limit for tonging. Harris described the oysters as "fat and salty".
Oyster season in Mississippi opened at sunrise. It's a limited season for commercial fishermen. Combine that with the frigid temperatures today and what you get is very few fishermen harvesting oysters. As of 7:00 a.m., just six oyster boats ventured out to the reefs south of Pass Christian to tong or dredge for oysters.
While battling the cold weather early in the day, the fishermen also facing the likely prospect of a disappointing catch this year. "The cold is okay. As long as it doesn't rain, we'll be all right," said Tuan Nguyen. "The wind and the cold we can deal with. It's just work, you know."
Nguyen will be oystering aboard the Miss Yen. Even more disheartening than the predicted cold weather are the prospects of a disappointing oyster harvest.
"It don't look too good. It don't look too good. As far as I heard, they ain't going to open it up for long anyway, so," said the fisherman.
Seafood dealer Jerry Forte is still selling shrimp. But with the holidays approaching, there will certainly be a demand for oysters. The question is: Will there be many Mississippi oysters?
"I don't know. I hope there is. I didn't go out on a boat with 'em. But everybody that went out to check 'em said it looks kind of bad, so. We don't know 'til we get 30 or 40 boats going," said Forte.
Oystering has never been an easy job, even during the good seasons. So, given the recent challenges and setbacks to the industry, it's no surprise that when you walk the docks in Pass Christian, you'll find several boats for sale.
But despite the frigid forecast and the rather dismal predictions for the harvest, commercial oystermen will hold out hope.
"It's pretty important. I mean, that's how we make a living down here. Either shrimping or oystering. I mean that's how we live down here," said Nguyen.
"They don't know if there's going to be any out there, but they're going to all go try it. The DMR says there's not many at all out there. But they've got it open tomorrow to see what they can do," said Forte.