Sunday, May 07, 2006

Shrimp Season Opens

I was out of town last weekend, visiting my parents, so I missed what is surely one of the most important events of the food season in the Charleston: the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet in Mount Pleasant, which marks the opening of the state's first shrimp season of the year.

All of the shrimp boats from Shem Creek and surrounding areas gather out in the Charleston harbour, where a blessing is read over loud speakers. The boats then parade northward up the coast of Old Town Mount Pleasant, past Alhambra Hall (a county park), where a crowd gathers to watch the boats sail past and hear descriptions and histories of each boat read over the PA system.

South Carolina has 3 distinct shrimp seasons. The first, "roe shrimp" (which are white shrimp), starts in May or June (depending upon when state biologists determine sufficient eggs have been spawned) and lasts about a month. The haul depends upon how cold previous winter was, with a mild winter meaning more shrimp. A second season starts fast on the heels of the first, this time for brown shrimp, and usually lasts through August. In the fall, the main white shrimp season begins, and it is usually the largest of the three. The shrimp caught during this season are the offspring of the Spring spawn. The white shrimp seaon peaks in September or October and can lasts as long as December.

Local shrimpers are predicting a good catch, though they are hurting economically from high gas prices and competition from oversea shrimp farmers. I'm about to head down to my seafood market and see if they have some fresh white shrimp in yet--it's been a long dry winter living off the frozen stuff.

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