CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The commercial shrimp trawling season in South Carolina state waters opened at 8 a.m. Thursday.
An unusually cool spring has resulted in slower growth than normal, resulting in slightly smaller shrimp, but shrimp are mature and spawning on schedule, according to SCDNR Director of Office of Fisheries Management Mel Bell said.
"Although coastal water temperatures, which influence shrimp growth and maturation, have fluctuated through several swings above and below average since January, they finally became more conducive for promoting a good spawn in our near shore waters in mid-May. This is certainly different from last year when unusually warm winter and spring water temperatures resulted in an early spawn of our white shrimp and an opening of state waters to trawling by mid-April," said Bell.
DNR surveys indicate that white shrimp stocks for the year were about average in 2012, although catches by commercial boats dropped off significantly in November and December. The relatively dry weather in 2012 may have contributed to the poor catches late in the year.
Increased rainfall thus far in 2013 should be good for white shrimp, according to DNR.
Total landings for shrimp during the 2012 season, measured heads-off, was just over 3.3 million pounds, which was about 13 percent above the catch of 2011. The numbers of licensed shrimp trawlers to-date as the season opens is 434.
Three seasons define the state's commercial shrimp fishery calendar. The first, white roe shrimp season, opens 8 a.m., May 30 in all state waters where trawling is permitted. The white roe shrimp season generates the most value for fishing effort with early season prices for larger roe shrimp being relatively high. The brown shrimp season typically occurs during the summer months, and the larger fall white shrimp season, composed of offspring from the spring roe crop, carries out the remainder of the three seasons in the late summer and ends in winter.