PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Just a day after the Biloxi Bay reefs shut down again, oyster fishermen returned to Pass Christian on Thursday morning. That's because a five-day pre-holiday oyster season opened at sunrise in the western waters of the Mississippi Sound.
Oyster fisherman Mackenzie Travis and his crew were on the first boat back to the docks with their 15-sack limit.
"We're getting them at a decent time. It ain't like it should be, but we're happy to be working. Can't complain," said Travis. "It means a lot. It's what feeds our family and pays our bill, you know."
After a very limited season last year and more hit or miss fishing opportunities this year, any opening of the reefs is welcome news to these fishermen.
"It's been pretty hard the past few years. BP money is gone, you know. We have to work for it now. Any opportunity we get we're glad for," said fisherman Jim Wright.
As for the long-term future of his industry, despite the promise of restoration projects to help boost the industry, Wright understands the challenges ahead.
"There's a lot of work to be done, but as long as we can keep our limit low and prices high, that's about the only way we can make it," said Wright.
The reopening of the season is certainly good news for the seafood dealers in Pass Christian. It was also welcome news for a restaurant owner in Long Beach, who bought a sack of oysters right off the dock.
"We knew they were bringing in fresh oysters today, so we just came down to check them out," said Joey Homrighausen.
The owner of Brackish Seafood restaurant likes what he found dockside.
"Fresher the better. We opened up the sack, took a look, and man got a lot of beautiful singles in there. So, come on down to Brackish and get you some fresh oysters," Homrighausen said.
The success of this five-day pre-Thanksgiving oyster season will likely mean approval for another five days right before Christmas.
The daily limit for this five-day season is 15 sacks for fishermen tonging the oysters, and 20 sacks for those who dredge.
The five-day season is in the western portion of the sound only. The reefs in Biloxi Bay remain closed for now.