Lack Of Ice Melting Start Of Shrimp Season

Battered and beaten shrimp boats that survived Katrina are about to embark on a journey into familiar, yet uncharted waters. And Joey Wilson can't wait.

"You don't want to miss the first day," the owner of the Capn Roy said.

Wednesday morning, his shrimp nets will trawl Mississippi waters again. If the nets don't get knotted up by hurricane debris, the season should get off to a plentiful start. At least that's what William Parker was told.

"A lot of the shrimpers say there are nice, big shrimp out there," the recreational shrimper said.

But at the Ocean Springs Harbor where Parker's boat is docked, shrimpers know the size of their catch won't matter if they have no way to freeze it.

"If we don't get no ice, we won't be heading out," Bobby Wilson said.

Katrina knocked out virtually every local ice machine that used to fill shrimp boat freezers with tons of shaved ice. So a desperate search has started to find any bags of ice that may be for sale.

Randy Wilson isn't the least bit excited about what a lack of ice is doing to his industry.

"With no ice, I ain't," he said. "Why go out there if you don't have any ice to ice the shrimp to make any money?"

Why? Ask Randy's uncle.

"It will be a chance to get back to work, get money coming in," Joey Wilson said.

And for families who feel tapped out, because they haven't gotten any federal assistance so far to repair the hurricane damage on their vessels, getting money coming in is more important now than ever.

The question is whether the shrimp they catch when the season opens Wednesday can make it to the docks before the ice thrown into a few ice chests melts away. As Bobby Wilson said, "It's just a crap shoot. That's all it is, a crap shoot."

This Sunday is Biloxi's Blessing of the Fleet celebration. It will be one of the rare times when the boats are blessed after the shrimp season opens.