This story was updated on Friday, June 15.
Get ready to eat!
The long-delayed South Carolina shrimp harvesting season opened partially this week, officials said, and state waters are expected to reopen Tuesday at 8 a.m.
The season usually starts in mid-May, but the January storm that blanketed the Lowcountry in snow and a cool spring affected the shrimp population.
"When water temperatures get below 9 degrees Celsius and they stay that way, shrimp start dying," Mel Bell, director of the Office of Fisheries Management for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, previously told The Island Packet.
State officials have been conducting test catches in shrimping areas to determine whether the size and number of shrimp spawning would merit opening the season.
Bell said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened federal waters 3 miles off the coast of South Carolina to commercial shrimp trawling on Wednesday afternoon.
"There's not a lot of white shrimp out there," Bell said about South Carolina state waters opening next week.
"So, basically, we will be opening on brown shrimp."
There are about 400 licensed commercial shrimpers in South Carolina, with about 50 permitted to fish in federal waters, WCIV reported.
Beaufort County shrimpers have appeared to take the delay in shrimp season in stride.
"The only thing we can do is wait until the fall crop," said Larry Toomer, owner of the Bluffton Oyster Company dock and companion restaurant in Old Town Bluffton. "The shrimp that spawn this time of year is what we catch in September, October, November, December."
"We are really hoping for a good fall," Bell said.
Tonya Hudson of Benny Hudson Seafood Corp. on Hilton Head Island warned consumers that opening federal waters does not mean local shrimp will be available immediately on Beaufort County docks.
"It kind of creates a false buzz," Hudson said, explaining that most shrimpers will not make the trip three miles out and burn fuel on their boats based on a "maybe."
They'd rather remain docked and wait for all of the local waters to open, she said.
"Every day as the weather gets warmer, the shrimp will come closer to shore."