By Captain David Lifka
There was a time when all it took was a nighttime crossing of the Shands, Buckman or Julington Creek bridges to let you know that the current year’s shrimping season was now in force. With hundreds of lights hanging from boats and docks the river would be lit up as far as the eye could see, as people anxiously awaited tasty shrimp to move into their baited areas. Wash tubs would fill as the evening progressed, often lasting into the wee hours of the morning.
Shrimping season was always eagerly anticipated and taken advantage of as soon as possible. Because of the unpredictability of any shrimping season, just one weekend missed may have meant waiting another year to try again.
Today the majority of recreational shrimping seems to be done during the day. Daytime shrimping is simple; you only need a boat and a cast net. A fish finder might be helpful, but chances are you will already see other boats throwing nets — giving away the current location of the shrimp you seek. You should never to be afraid to stop anywhere in the river and try a test throw, since by doing so you will often uncover a new spot. A webbed net for most will greatly increase the number of shrimp caught per throw and is well worth the investment.
For those who still shrimp the old fashioned way at night, shrimping has become much easier over the last few years. No longer are messy lanterns needed as LED lights can easily outperform yesteryear’s lights. Hours of prep time making dough balls or clay balls mixed with fish meal can be replaced by making a quick stop at a nearby bait or hardware store and purchasing shrimp pellets for bait.
In today’s shrimping we can no longer fill wash tubs full of shrimp like in decades past. A five-gallon bucket per boat or per person shrimping from a dock is the legal maximum per day. A saltwater fishing license is required to shrimp and there is even a closed season for our area of the river for part of the year. And don’t forget: the heading of any shrimp must be done after you are off the water and only on dry land.
Shrimping season is a lot like hurricane season. We know when the season should begin and end, but we never know the strength, the frequency — or if it’s coming early, late, or even at all. As summer advances so does the anticipation of another shrimping season. Too bad as shrimping season approaches we no longer have the lights on the river signaling the start, the end and the strength of a shrimping season as they once did in seasons past.
Fishing Report: It’s croaker time. Croaker from Buckman to south of Shands. Also time to start dropping a net for shrimp. Remember just a few make great live bait.
Whether you catch one, some or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.