The 2017 brown shrimp season opened 6 a.m. Wednesday and Mississippi Department of Marine Resources officials are hoping the season will be bountiful for recreational and commercial shrimpers in South Mississippi.
DMR public affairs director Melissa Scallan said the season opened with almost 700 permits issued.
“This includes licenses for both recreational and commercial fishermen,” Scallan said. “The season pretty much runs until April 30, 2018.”
Scallan said there were about 250 boats in the water on Wednesday and most were between Gulfport and Biloxi.
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And with boats on the water and nets in the Mississippi Sound north of the barrier islands, Scallan said DMR scientists have seen some descent-sized shrimp in the Gulf.
“We have been doing samples since the first of the year and it’s been pretty positive so far,” she said. “You have to have 68-count-per-pound shrimp in order to open the season and what we have been seeing is 31/35 count — the rain may have affected that a bit but we are still expecting a better season than 2016.”
One captain, Chi Phan of Biloxi, returned to the Biloxi commercial harbor early because of equipment problems. He said the shrimp he caught in the two hours he dragged were small. He only had about 10 pounds of jumbo shrimp to the 200 or so pounds of medium shrimp.
Motorists saw him pull into harbor and began lining up to buy his fresh catch. He sold what he had within an hour. Phan said he only made enough money to cover his operating expenses for the day and would be out for two or three days more making repairs.
Calvin Smith of Vancleave could relate to Phan’s problems. He grew up working on his father’s shrimp boat in Chauvin, Louisiana. He knew the shrimping life wasn’t for him. “I’ve seen the toll it takes on the all the older people,” he said. “I had to do something different.” Instead he joined the Marines.
Shrimp that isn’t sold at the docks is brought to seafood dealers along the Coast and across the state. But Scallan warns that not all shrimp you are purchasing in South Mississippi is harvested in the Gulf.
“If you want Mississippi shrimp, the locally caught wild brown shrimp, you have to ask for it or ask for Gulf shrimp,” she said. “Otherwise, you may be buying shrimp that was caught somewhere else where the guidelines are not as strict as those of the FDA.”