Mississippi's oyster season officially ended at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon, but the bad weather forced many boats in early, including the one manned by veteran oysterman Bobby Ross and his two sons.
Ross says bad weather like this throughout the season is just one reason oyster harvesters' profits have sagged this season.
"Then the boats. They've got more boats oystering this year because shrimp prices are down and the fuel prices are up," Ross said.
Vendors at the harbor say more fishermen were forced to dredge and tong for oysters this year because of last year's poor shrimp season, but with the increased number of oyster harvesters in South Mississippi waters, the sack limit was lowered to just 15 sacks per boat, capping profits for individual oystermen like Bobby Ross.
"It's been an average year. Like I say, we had a pretty good start, but it's been about an average year, compared to my last three or four years," Ross said.
Ross and his sons are now looking forward to dropping their nets for shrimp season at the beginning of June. While the Ross's didn't pull in as much money oystering this season, fishing these waters isn't just about monetary gain--it's something that's been in their blood for five generations and a passion that's sure to live on. "You'll see me here next October...if the good Lord's willing," Ross said.
Final statistics for this year's harvest have not yet been released.
However on April 15th, the Department of Marine Resources reported that 263,175 sacks had been harvested. That's compared to 491,050 from last year.