The state commercial shrimping waters open Tuesday at 8 a.m. Here's what you need to know about the catch:
WHAT IT MEANS: Shrimpers can move from federal waters into state waters closer to shore. Those waters are the heart of the shrimp crop and make for better catches, bringing more tasty fresh local shrimp to market.
WHY SO LATE: State waters normally open mid- to late May. This season, a perfect storm of (poor) crop and cold crippled the spring shrimp. The catch last fall was poor, so a record low number of shrimp were out there to spawn, S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologists say. A winter freeze and cool spring further depleted the crop, so DNR delayed opening to give roe shrimp more time to spawn, hopefully restoring numbers.
UPSIDE: Late spring openings usually translate to a better fall catch.
WHAT TO EXPECT: "Decent" catches and size, according to DNR. Spotty catches of larger shrimp, Shem Creek shrimper Tommy Edwards said.
WHAT TO PAY: Retail customers surprised by a pre-season price of more than $10 per pound for larger local shrimp shouldn't expect it to drop too far. Disease that wracked the farm crops has driven up the wild catch prices; good for shrimpers, not so good for consumers.
TIP: Buy the shrimp already headed, Edwards said. He expects to sell heads-on shrimp at $9 per pound; headed at $13. But weighed pound per pound of meat, headed shrimp are a cheaper buy.