Shrimp Boats Prepare For New Season

They're mending the nets, loading their boats with salt and watching the weather.

Coast fishermen are busy getting set for the opening of shrimp season in Mississippi waters.

Opening day is traditionally around the first week of June. The Department of Marine Resources has been busy taking samples. The DMR can't open the season until shrimp reach the legal size of 68 per pound.

Fishermen on Back Bay are getting their nets ready for the 2002 season. The shrimp boats now docked at the new Port Commission pier, will soon be working the waters.

Getting their rigs ready is only one of the worries.

"All the fishermen right now, they worry about price," explained John Nguyen.

Price is something Nguyen realizes he can't control. But as he works aboard the "Miss Angela", he also wonders about this year's prices.

"Very low right now. Like last year, it was a little bit higher than right now. We hope the price is coming up later," said Nguyen.

You'll find Hoia Nguyen working under the "Fresh Shrimp" sign at the Biloxi small craft harbor. The Ole Miss pharmacy student will spend the summer working aboard his father's shrimp boat.

The shrimp he's now selling comes Louisiana waters, where the season is only average at best.

"Compared to last season, it's been down a lot. But I've been hearing a lot of rumors that the shrimp is pretty thick out there in Mississippi waters. Pretty nice sizes," said Hoia Nguyen.

The weather is cooperating with fishermen this year. Lack of rain means a good growing season.

Mike Brainard is a fisheries biologist with the Department of Marine Resources.

"It's actually very good for shrimp production. Warmer temperatures and higher salinity. Brown shrimp, which are the shrimp coming in right now, that's what they prefer," explained Brainard.

Even when the samples are good, predicting the success of a new season involves a bit of guesswork. But one thing is a constant year after year. Making a living on the water is hard work.

Tan Nguyen is busy getting his shrimp boat ready for the new season.

"It's very hard work. It's not an easy job. But when you work with it and get used to it, everything's easy," reasoned Nguyen.

The DMR has been taking shrimp samples at several locations from Bay St. Louis to Petis Bois Island.

Biologist Mike Brainard says the latest samples are looking good. He expects the opening date will be set later this week.