The shrimp are looking a little better, just not quite ready to peel. That's what state biologists found on the first offshore trawl to gauge when to open the season.

Nets dragged in the vicinity of Saint Helena Sound came back with big shrimp, but only fair numbers, said Larry DeLancey, of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. "It's not as good as the last couple of years."

Provisional state waters might open within two weeks from 3-6 miles off inlets. Federal waters not off inlets already have opened in that range. It's still too early to say when the nearshore waters that are considered the heart of the catch might open.

"They're still spawning up in the rivers," DeLancey said. More sample trawls will be made.

The Friday trawl was more encouraging than trawls in the Charleston estuary in late April and earlier this week, when biologists found the early spring cold had slowed numbers and growth of the crop. The overall catch hasn't been good for the past three years, after a cold 2010-2011 winter crippled the spring spawn.

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