GULF OF MEXICO — Nearly 370 boats filled the Mississippi Sound just before daybreak yesterday for the start of this year’s shrimp season.
Many boats could be seen from the beach Tuesday evening, iced down and fueled up in anticipation of the season opening.
Shrimpers showed off their catch early yesterday, and they said the large numbers pointed to a good season.
John Guidry Jr. of Carriere put his net in the water for less than an hour, and it was so heavy he needed two people to help him get it in his boat.
“This was a 45-minute haul,” he said, smiling. “This is one of the best catches I’ve ever had in my life. The last time I caught shrimp like this, I ran out of ice.”
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources announced last week that shrimp season would begin yesterday. Scientists sampled shrimp several times a week until they reached 68-count per pound as required by state statute.
“The opening of shrimp season is a great tradition on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Jamie Miller, executive director of the MDMR. “Its roots run deep in our community, with generations of fishermen providing great seafood that contributes significantly to South Mississippi’s economy.”
This year there were 368 boats in the water on opening day, the most since June 2005, said Rick Burris, director of the Shrimp and Crab Bureau. He is optimistic that this year’s season will be a good one.
“Heavy spring rains and a cold winter lead to a later opening, but a successful one by all accounts,” Burris said. “From our early reports, this is one of the best openings we have had in years. Most of the fishermen we talked to were hauling in really good numbers of 30-40-count brown shrimp, and it should only get better as night falls.”
MDMR’s aerial survey showed most of the fleet was located from the Biloxi East channel to Bellefontaine Beach (155) and from the Gulfport ship channel to Deer Island (120). A smaller number of boats (65) were working the west side of the Gulfport ship channel.
Early harvest reports showed fishermen hauling in 300-plus pounds per trawl of 30-40-count brown shrimp. The size was slightly smaller west of the Gulfport ship channel with 40-50-count brown shrimp, but the number of pounds were the same as in other areas.
MDMR sold 729 shrimp licenses since April. Of those, 359 were resident commercial, 256 were non-resident commercial and 114 were recreational.