Mississippi Shrimpers Prepare For 2005 Season

A load of fresh shrimp was being washed and packed. A group from Georgia bought the shrimp off a Biloxi dock and took it back to the mountains "because I want to take it home and put it in the freezer," said Georgia native Mary Nell Pittman.

The shrimp she bought happened to be from Louisiana waters. Mississippi shrimp will be at the docks sometime after the season opens at six Tuesday morning. And Mina Hasten can't wait.

"I'm a shrimp fisherman," she boasted. "It's good to get back to work."

Hasten, her grandson, and her husband spent the day before shrimp season preparing the April Dawn for its annual voyage. But Mrs. Hasten wasn't very optimistic about what her fishing team would catch.

"Actually, I'm a little apprehensive. It doesn't look like it's going to be a real good season," she said.

That happens to be the DMR prediction. And that was the last thing long-time fishermen who've seen their industry struggle wanted to hear.

Connie Balius was at the Biloxi shrimp docks, waiting for the right moment to head out to sea.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it," he said, referring to the catch predictions.

Hasten had a similar thought.

"I'm afraid the shrimp are going to be too small, and not very many," she said.

At least Mrs. Hasten will be with her 13-year-old grandson for his maiden opening day voyage on board the April Dawn. As Aaron moved a bucket of ice, he smiled about his upcoming trip.

"I think it's going to be fun," he said.

According to the DMR, Mississippi shrimpers are actually coming off one of their best seasons ever. They caught more shrimp last year than at any time since records were kept.