MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - Even before the sun came up, the shrimpers were ready, fingers crossed for a bountiful harvest.
Officials with the Department of Marine Resources are hopeful as well. One of them is shrimp bureau director Rick Burris. "We had a really warm winter and somewhat of a wet spring so it's hard to predict but based on our sampling, we're certainly optimistic," Burris said.
Shrimpers are anxious to be out on the water once again, and they're not the only ones, according to DMR director Jamie Miller. "As the director, this is my third year to be a bigger part of it. I can tell you, it's an exciting time for the agency and it is a coast tradition," Miller explained.
More than 600 licenses were sold for the shrimp season, and more than 250 boats were on the waters of the Mississippi Sound. Because of that, law enforcement officials with the DMR were out in force, basically looking for one thing.
Chief Keith Davis heads up the marine patrol for the DMR. "We're looking for the protection of the environment. We want to ensure that their turtle excluder devices are intact. We want to remain in compliance with federal regulations to ensure that we protect the turtles. Other than that, we're going to make sure people are safe when they are out on the waterways," Davis said.
The first haul in rough waters was not exactly what shrimper Nhan Nguyen had in mind. "No good today. I run about out near the red ball, no shrimp there, very few," Nguyen lamented.
Even so, that could change in the next couple of days, as baskets fill up more quickly, said Miller. "It's exciting for everybody. I mean people in restaurants and people that enjoy fresh Gulf shrimp will be excited to see those fresh shrimp come back to the dock here today and in the days to come."
While the season officially runs until December, most of the shrimp will be caught in the first few weeks.