Shrimp season fully under way in SC

gmartin@islandpacket.comMay 6, 2012 

Shrimp boats were lined up and ready to head out for Monday's start of the commercial shrimping season at the Gay Fish Company Friday afternoon.

JONATHAN DYER

Grab the cocktail sauce.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has opened commercial shrimp season in near-shore waters swarming with the crustaceans.

That means more fresh, succulent, local shrimp will be turning up on docks, at seafood markets and on tables near you.

The shrimp came out of nowhere earlier this spring, a year after they had disappeared in the cold winter.

Cold spells that killed wintering shrimp kept the 2011 commercial season from opening until late June and had biologists worried that the losses would deplete this year's crop.

They and shrimpers were shocked in March when boats in the open federal waters far out at sea began pulling in good catches, two months earlier than expected.

In response, the state opened its "provisional waters" in April -- one of the earliest starts ever.

Since then, Charles Gay of Gay Fish Co. in northern Beaufort County reports that the haul hasn't been quite as bountiful as he'd anticipated.

"It's been real spotty," he said. "Some of our boats have done real well. It's just not too consistent at this point yet."

But his store is busier than ever for this time of year, he added.

DNR biologist Larry DeLancey said sample trawls indicate the catch will be "standard large white roe shrimp."

"The shrimp are just doing their thing. They're not paying any attention to the calendar," DeLancey said.

Larry Toomer of the Bluffton Oyster Co. said he couldn't recall the commercial shrimp season beginning so early. It adds another element of uncertainty to the already unpredictable nature of his job.

"I'm not fighting the opening or overly excited about the opening," he said. "We're in uncharted waters, so to speak."

Bo Petersen of the (Charleston) Post & Courier contributed to this report.

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