Seafood Handbook

Shrimp Story

Louisiana is the largest shrimp producing state in the nation. Each year 90 to 120 million pounds of shrimp are landed in the bayou state. Two main species, white shrimp and brown shrimp make up the bulk of the catch. Other shrimp species such as sea bobs, pink shrimp and rock shrimp are also caught but in much smaller quantities. Shrimp are harvested from inshore lakes and bays as well as offshore waters. Inshore shrimp season dates are variable. The historical spring and fall seasons are managed by LDWF to correspond with shrimp life cycles, abundance and size. Louisiana is split into 3 shrimp management zones. Vermilion, Cote Blanche and Atchafalaya Bay systems are located in Zone 2. The Atchafalaya river discharge lowers salinity levels in this region creating ideal growing conditions for white shrimp. Brown shrimp are produced in abundance in coastal regions with higher salinity.


Shrimp Seasons:

  • Spring inshore: May to July
  • Fall inshore: August to December
  • State offshore: (coast to 3 miles offshore) open all year with closures as needed
  • Federal offshore: (3-200 miles offshore) open all year

Shrimp product forms:

A variety of shrimp products can be purchased locally, both fresh and fresh frozen. Whole and headless (shell on) fresh shrimp is commonly available from our local shrimp fleet. In addition, peeled and peeled-deveined shrimp are also available from local processing plants.

Fresh shrimp bought direct from commercial fishers can be either whole or headless. Most inshore boats store their catch on ice and come to port daily or every few days. Many of the local larger offshore boats bring in heads-on, individually quick frozen (IQF) frozen shrimp. These IQF shrimp are brine frozen at sea in mesh bags similar to crawfish sacks. Freezing allows for extended time (sometimes weeks) at sea. Well handled frozen shrimp is an excellent product.

Fresh Shrimp: Shrimp should have a mild sea breeze, ocean smell. Shells should hold tightly to the flesh and legs should be intact. Meat should be firm and translucent. Avoid product with any scent of ammonia. Nothing tastes better than fresh shrimp right off the boat.

Frozen Shrimp: Shrimp can be purchased block frozen from processing plants or individually quick frozen (IQF). Shrimp should be frozen solid and properly glazed to prevent dehydration and freezer burn. Many consumers prefer frozen product due to ease of handling and storage. Frozen shrimp in most forms can be purchased by the 5-lb box or by the 50 pound case. IQF shrimp headless or peeled from the processor plants are sold in 5 pound bags or 20 pound cases. Boat frozen IQF shrimp are stored and sold in 70-75 pound bags. Frozen shrimp are available year round and the next best thing to fresh shrimp.


Fresh white shrimp

Shrimp Sizes: Consumers often find shrimp being sold by sizes such as large, medium and small. These categories can have different meanings and be confusing. For example medium sized shrimp at one place can be a considered large shrimp at another. Shrimp size standards have been developed to help solve this problem. Larger shrimp are usually cost more than small shrimp. Headless shrimp will also cost more than a heads-on shrimp of the same count size.

Shrimp count charts relate the size name to the number of shrimp per pound for that size. For example “Extra Jumbo” shrimp would average 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. Likewise a 61/70 is termed “Extra Small” with a count of 60 to 70 per pound.

Shrimp count will increase by 2 counts sizes when the head is removed and 1 more count size when the shell is removed. A 16/20 heads-on shrimp become a 26/30 when the head is removed and then a 31/35 when peeled.

SHRIMP COUNT CHART (headless shell-on)

Transporting Shrimp: Be prepared with proper sized containers and adequate ice when transporting shrimp. Most shrimpers will have ice available to keep your purchase cold but check in advance to be certain. Frozen product should not be iced but placed in ice chest or insulated container for transportation. Containers should be shaded from direct sunshine and kept as cool as possible. Make sure you have enough container space for shrimp and ice. Longer travel time and warmer temps may require more ice. Remember a full ice chest is quite heavy. Use the following general guide for transporting shrimp:

*Rule of thumb- assume 1 quart capacity for each pound fresh shrimp plus ice

How much to buy

Boiled shrimp: Plan on ½ to 1 pound of shell-on shrimp per person for boiled shrimp. Amount needed depends on whether sides such as corn, potatoes, sausage etc are being served. Also consider appetite level. Shrimp amounts can be scaled up some for the football team party and down a bit for the ladies book club boil.

Shrimp yield: When buying heads-on shrimp remember that removing the heads will decrease total weight by 35%. When the shell is removed weight decreases by another 15%. For example, 100 pounds of heads-on shrimp will result in 65 pounds of heads-off shrimp. When shells are removed 50 pounds of shrimp flesh is the result.

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