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Shrimp season likely to start slowly
The rainy remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl Tuesday did not keep John Wallace from preparing his shrimp boat in Darien for today's opening of Georgia's shrimp season.

Shrimp fishermen are allowed to trawl as close as 3 miles to shore during the designated season.

People can also use seine and cast nets in certain areas.

But Wallace, marketing director for the Georgia Shrimp Association, does not expect to see many shrimpers fishing in the state-monitored near-shore waters yet.

"After the storm this weekend, I think everyone will be about 6 miles off shore," he said with a chuckle.

A tropical storm in May is unusual and its effects on early season shrimp fishing are unknown, Wallace said.

One thing he does know is the easterly winds are creating rough water, making trawling more difficult.

"(Waters) won't calm down until the wind starts blowing from the west again," he said.

Because of the storm, Wallace expects the official opening of shrimp season to start slowly. Conditions will likely improve, though, he said.

"I think by the fall, things should be pretty good," he said.

Storms are generally good for shrimpers because they pour fresh water into the rivers and can push shrimp out of the estuaries and into the sounds or the ocean, according to Jim Page, a marine biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division. Page supervises monthly surveys.

In the case of Beryl, the rain will hopefully reduce salinity levels in local waters, which have been high lately, Page said.

The impact of heavy inland rain can also be negative by pushing smaller brown shrimp out to where fishermen are searching for the more desirable food-quality white shrimp, he added. Brown shrimp tend to be used as fishing bait, Page said.

Like Wallace, Page is predicting a strong fall for local shrimpers, thanks to an early spawning season for white shrimp.

"The abundance of white shrimp in our most recent coast-wide trawl survey is comparable to historic averages for the month of May," Page said. "The majority of the shrimp are large enough to be desirable to recreational harvesters and valuable to commercial fishermen. Survey results also show that many white shrimp have already spawned."

White shrimp catches reported to DNR by shrimpers in federal waters - more than three miles out - have been good so far this year, Page said. Federal waters are not subject to seasons like state waters.

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