Slow Start For Oyster Season

The 2002 oyster season is off to a slow start in Mississippi.

Phase one of the new season opened at sunrise Wednesday.  But the opening only applies to certain reefs.

The high tide and scarcity of oysters made for a slow day at the Pass Christian harbor.

Allen Graham spent most of the morning tonging for oysters. But the catch wasn't very impressive.

"One and a half sacks," said the dejected fisherman.

"More work than it's worth," he quickly added.

And he's not alone.

Tony Hormanski shared a similar story on opening day. He worked the Long Beach reef for just a single sack.

"I wasted my time. I went over there and spent three hours for a sack of oysters. Tide's too high. I just can't work. It ain't no good," said Hormanski.

No good now perhaps, but the local waters hold the promise of better days ahead. After all, the usually productive Pass Christian reef doesn't open until October 7th.

The market should also be better by then.

Jerry Forte is a wholesale seafood dealer at the Pass harbor.

"You sell oysters better from October on. They start selling a little bit in September. But it'll be better later in the season," said Forte.

Oystermen are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Rainfall can help the oysters grow, but too much rain can shut down a reef. The tide is also a significant factor. The higher than expected tide on opening day made it much more difficult tonging for oysters.

Richard Lippert brought in four sacks of oysters by early afternoon. He worked the St. Stanislaus reef and admits he planned on bagging twice that many.

The prospect for a better tomorrow will keep the oystermen working the waters. And there's plenty of time for better luck. The season doesn't end until April.

The oyster reefs in Hancock County were far more productive on opening day. Bayou Caddy Fisheries unloaded just over three hundred sacks.

The Department of Marine Resources operates an oyster hotline with updated information about the various reefs.

You can call the hotline toll free at 1-800-385-5902.