South Carolina’s shrimp baiting season opened last Friday at high noon, a sure sign the much-anticipated days of autumn will soon arrive.
But just 24 hours earlier, South Carolina’s coastline was being pummeled by torrential rainfall and near-hurricane force gusts as Hurricane Dorian eased by perilously close to the east.
Forty-eight hour rainfall totals were upwards of 10 inches including 13.38 inches in Georgetown and 15.21 inches in Pawleys Island during the three days, Sept. 4-6, of the storm’s passage.
A deluge of rain isn’t exactly a good recipe for the start of the shrimp baiting season. Or is it?
Prior to Dorian’s arrival, local rivers were at their lowest levels since the historic flooding spawned almost a year ago by Hurricane Florence.
The conjecture was the rainfall may have only flushed smaller shrimp out of the tidal creeks and into the main body of area estuaries, instead of flushing all sizes of shrimp into the ocean.
Biologists with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources were out sampling with an otter trawl in Charleston Harbor and the Ashley River on Monday, just about three days after Dorian’s rains departed.
“We thought we might see some of the smaller shrimp from the creeks, and that is something we saw in our sampling,” said Dr. Michael Kendrick of S.C. DNR’s Crustacean Research and Monitoring Section. “We saw a higher than average number of shrimp. (The small shrimp) normally stay in the creeks and continue growing and developing before moving into the main harbors.”
Kendrick isn’t sure what happens from here as autumn arrives, officially on Sept. 23. Shrimp baiting season continues through Nov. 5.
“We don’t know what they’re going to do next,” said Kendrick. “Are they going to move back in the creeks? The sampling was so close after this big freshwater event, it’s hard to know what this is going to mean for the fall shrimp fishery.”
With the trawling samples showing some small creek shrimp and good overall numbers, that is exactly what shrimp baiters can expect to find especially in Charleston County waters, including Bulls Bay and Cape Romain.
But the rain was heavier farther north, as mentioned, in Georgetown County, and S.C. DNR has done no sampling and currently has no sampling on the schedule for the Winyah Bay vicinity.
With no info available on the status of shrimp in the bay, local shrimp baiters will surely find out this weekend.
Commercial shrimp trawlers from McClellanville to Murrells Inlet have had success in the ocean since the storm, meaning quality fresh shrimp are available for purchase.
Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout
The tournament, the final of four events in the inaugural Palmetto Kingfish Tour, is underway out of Marlin Quay Marina in Garden City Beach.
Boats are able to fish one of three days, Friday through Sunday, with the largest king mackerel weighed in winning first place.
A field of 46 boats is competing in the tournament, with weigh-ins open to the public at the marina each day from 4-6 p.m.