By Captain David Lifka
If you haven’t been shrimping yet this year, now is the time to gather your gear and get started. Even though the season is still early, the numbers and the size of the shrimp (mostly larges) are more typical for later in the season.
Years back, shrimping was mostly a nighttime event. As evening approaches and the sun sets, shrimp will leave the deeper waters and channels in favor of shorelines and shallow water. Baiting an area with shrimp meal that has been rolled into a clay or dough ball and tossed into the shallow water area you intend to shrimp is how you begin. Lighting up your area with lanterns is the next step needed to attract shrimp to where you will be shrimping. Shortly after sunset, using a 3/8 inch mesh cast net, begin throwing the net in the areas you have baited. Remember to add additional bait balls as needed to keep shrimp attracted to your area and that sometimes it takes a little patience waiting for the shrimp to move in. Nighttime shrimping usually works best from a dock or a boat in as little as three to six feet of water.
Daytime shrimping has become the more common way to shrimp the St. Johns River. Unlike nighttime shrimping, baiting an area is not needed at all; however, in most instances, a boat is needed. If you don’t have access to a boat, there are still a few locations in Jacksonville where daylight shrimping can be done from a seawall. One such popular area is the Friendship Fountain/St. Johns Marina Boat Ramp seawall on downtown’s Southbank.
When shrimping during daylight hours, one only needs to locate the shrimp as they leave the shallow waters from the night before. Mouths of creeks and points are good places to begin looking. Again, using a 3/8 inch mesh cast net is your only weapon of choice. Because of the depths and current involved for daytime shrimping, extra rope tied to your net and webbing may be required. Webbing on a net has somewhat of a parachute effect when throwing in deeper water, helping your net open more or stay open all the way to the bottom. Webbed nets can be bought online, at select local bait and tackle stores, or homemade with duct tape. Duct taping your net instructions can be easily found online.
Icing down your shrimp prior to heading and deveining will help make that job a little easier. Headed shrimp can be stored best in Tupperware-type containers filled with water and then frozen, easily keeping them fresh for many months to come.
Fishing Report: Time to go shrimping. Doctors Lake and the north side of the mouth of Julington Creek have been very productive. Live shrimp baits are best for all types of river fishing now.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
Email your Catch of the Month photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the name of the person(s) in the photo, the name of the person who took the photo, the type of fish and date and location of the catch. We will select a photo each month for publication.
Photo courtesy David Lifka
Eighth grader Dawson Vaughn of Julington Creek Plantation with shrimp he caught recently in Doctor’s Lake. The shrimp were caught throwing a six-foot webbed cast net in 20 feet of water.