LWFC approves opening dates for inshore shrimp

It's May, and the topic of the day and month for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is shrimp, namely the spring inshore season.

After hearing reports from Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' biologist Marty Bourgeois, the commission voted to follow the LDWF's recommendations during Thursday's commission meeting in Baton Rouge.

It means shrimpers in the Terrebonne-Caillou bays and Vermilion-Teche zones will get first crack at the get "inside" shrimp to the commercial market. Their spring season is set to open at 6 a.m. May 13.

The Barataria Zone, that runs from the Mississippi River west to Bayou Lafourche at Belle Pass, will have a 6 a.m. May 20 start.

Shrimpers on opposite ends of the state, in the two zones encompassing the Pontchartrain Basin, including waters east of the Mississippi River east to the Louisiana-Mississippi state line, and in the Calcasieu-Mermentau zones, waters east of Vermilion Bay west to the Louisiana-Texas state line, can drop their nets in state waters at 6 a.m. May 27.

Water temperatures, salinity readings, discharges from the state's major rivers, rainfall and tidal movement usually predict the best opening dates, but this year's challenges were different, Bourgeois told the seven commissioners.

Shrimpers have come to call their springtime work the "brown shrimp season," but that's not the case this year. While brown shrimp growth is a factor in setting the spring season, there were other factors that made for three opening dates.

Bourgeois said there's an abundance of overwintering, marketable-sized white shrimp in the Terrebonne-Caillou area that needed to be taken before stronger spring and early summer tides send the shrimp into offshore waters.

The same white shrimp scenario played out in the Vermilion-Teche zone, but the fear of losing the shrimp to the Gulf of Mexico came on the rapidly rising Atchafalaya River. Bourgeois said this slug of freshwater would chase the shrimp from this estuary.

The May 20 opening for Barataria was based on brown shrimp growth rates, but, again, there was market-size white shrimp in the system, too.

The Pontchartrain opener was based on the historical preference for shrimpers there wanting a later opening to give them larger shrimp, while the same-date opening in the Calcasieu-Mermentau zone was based on slow growth of brown shrimp in those waters.

All opening dates are Mondays, and all base-line dates for the six zones were based, in part, on a standard that 50 percent of the shrimp in each zone would be at or larger than 100 to the pound.

Other LWFC action included: