Breaking with a tradition Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted to open the spring inshore shrimp season across the state’s coastal waters on the same day — 6 a.m., May 18.

A long-standing policy was to open the state’s three major shrimping zones when state marine biologists determined the brown shrimp in each of those zones, and the major estuaries in those zones, grew to 100 shrimp or larger to the pound.

State Shrimp Study leader Marty Bourgeois told the commission that those dates ranged from May 10 in the northern Lake Pontchartrain study zone to May 27 in waters in the Mermentau-Calcasieu-Sabine study area.

Those dates were based on samples taken as late as Sunday, May 3.

The move for the same-day opening came after the state’s small-boat shrimpers, vessels that make up most of the inshore fleet, pleaded for a single opening to prevent large numbers of boats from descending on one area to harvest shrimp.

The later date, shrimpers said, would increase the size of the shrimp and offer better dockside prices for their catches.

Commission member Dan Davis said the only problem he had with the May 18 date was that it was a day after the new moon, a time when stronger tidal movement carries shrimp from the marshes into nearshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. He said he would have preferred a May 15 opening, but agreed with the other commissioners for a 6-0 vote. Commission member Pat Manuel missed the meeting.

Bourgeois told the commission that April rains had slowed the growth of shrimp, but that recent southeasterly winds and low rainfall had stimulated growth and additional cohorts of smaller shrimp had moved into the marshes to present shrimpers with the opportunity of additional larger shrimp throughout the spring season.

The commission also approved a May 18 opening date for state “outside” waters from Atchafalaya River Ship Channel west to Freshwater Bayou Canal.

Other commission action included:

Approving a notice of intent to increase the minimum size of sac-a-lait on Eagle Lake to 11 inches with a daily creel of 30 in an agreement with Mississippi;

Approving a resolution to support a move by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to file an amicus brief supporting a Coastal Conservation Association-filed suit in federal court to halt the federal plan to divide the recreational red snapper quota into private and for-hire/charterboat sectors;

Learning that Enforcement Division agents issued 847 citations during April, and worked fatal boating accidents that claimed the lives of two men;

Voting to continue the commercial and recreational fishing closure of the Bay Jimmy area in Barataria Bay due to continued problems in the wake of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster;

And, voting its September meeting for Sept. 3 in Baton Rouge.

Step Outside Day

The 11th-annual Step Outside Day is set for 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area near Krotz Springs. The fee-to-the-public program’s activities include fishing, archery, boating, target shooting, nature photography, bird watching and canoeing along with seminars on trapping techniques, turkey and duck calling and information on the Louisiana black bear and alligators.

Food and drink will be provided.