South Carolina Shrimp Season Officially Opens

Commercial shrimp trawling opened in all legal South Carolina waters on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

In an average year, shrimp season opens in full by late May, typically after the opening of eight smaller provisional areas in the state’s outer waters.

This year those provisional areas opened on April 19, allowing shrimpers to begin harvesting some larger white shrimp from farther offshore while still protecting most of the spawning population closer to shore.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) officials set the opening date for shrimp season each year based on the conditions of the shrimp themselves. Aboard both commercial and agency vessels, biologists sample and study white shrimp frequently in late spring. One of the things they’re looking for is evidence that a majority of female white shrimp have already spawned at least once.

“We’ve been conducting weekly sampling along our coast since late April to document that spawning activity,” said biologist Jeff Brunson, who leads the agency’s crustacean management.

Opening the season too soon – and allowing trawlers to catch females that have not had an opportunity to spawn – could reduce the size of the fall white shrimp crop, which are the offspring of the spring white shrimp.

“Given the lack of extreme cold weather over the winter, the abundance of white shrimp in the estuaries throughout the state and the advanced ovarian development of shrimp, we feel good about the timing of the season opener,” said Brunson.

South Carolina’s commercial shrimp calendar has historically had three peak periods. In the spring, shrimpers typically capitalize on the influx of roe white shrimp, large, early-season shrimp that generally fetch higher prices and generate the most value for fishing effort. The summer months are defined by a peak in brown shrimp, which are similar to white shrimp in size and taste. In the fall and into winter, shrimpers bring in a second crop of white shrimp; the offspring of the spring roe shrimp.

Because white shrimp are a short-lived species that are sensitive to cold water temperatures and unusually wet or dry summers, their numbers can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. However, they’re also prolific spawners – which means that the populations can quickly rebound even after a poor year or season.

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Written by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.