My wife and I would like to go shrimp fishing. Do you know anyone who does that?
— Thanks, Bill Kretschmar
The short answer is no, I don’t know anybody who will take you shrimping. If anyone out there does do shrimp charters, contact me and I’ll pass your info along.
Now for the long answer.
When I was a tweenager, we used to do a little family shrimping in the Placida area. We were shore-based, so we had two options: First, we could use long-handled nets (10 to 20 feet, maybe longer) and dip off the bridges or trestle. Second, we could use shorter-handled nets and wade the flats or fish the edges of the salt ponds.
There were shrimp under the Placida Road bridge over Coral Creek, but there were a lot more under the Boca Grande Causeway. Back then, pedestrians on the causeway were tolerated a lot more than they are now. Go ahead and try to set foot on the bridges today and see how long it is before you have company. Besides, the first bridge is now much too high to dip shrimp (but a lot easier to fit a tall mast under).
When they stopped allowing us out on the causeway, we switched to the trestle. You can still dip shrimp there today. Bridge dipping was not a year-round activity. There are small shrimp every month of the year, but we didn’t want small shrimp. We wanted certified jumbos, because cleaning shrimp is a royal pain. The fewer shrimp you have to clean to get a good dinner, the better. So we focused on winter and spring, when big shrimp were running.
Now, shrimp mostly ride the tide, heading from the Harbor out into the Gulf. Therefore, we went only on strong outgoing tides. You could catch a few at other times, but we filled coolers when the current was flowing strongly.
Shrimping is mainly a nighttime activity. Some dippers would hang lanterns over the side of the bridges or trestles, usually under a metal trash can lid to act as a reflector. We usually just used bright headlamps. Either way, you looked for the red glow of shrimp eyes near the surface and scooped them up.
You could be a snatcher or a waiter. Snatchers would pull the net out of the water and wait for a shrimp to come by, then try to snatch that shrimp up quick as quick. Waiters would leave the net in the water and just maneuver it in front of an approaching shrimp, hoping the water would carry it in. I caught more shrimp that way, but missed a lot of the biggest, which are also the fastest, so I usually was a snatcher.
The salt ponds would produce all year. If you look at a satellite image of Placida, you’ll see several ponds on the Coral Creek side of S.R. 775, close to where the road turns to go north. These were the ponds we would stalk. Back then, there were no homes there. I haven’t been there in many years, so I don’t know if they still hold shrimp. But we used to get huge shrimp from them — the biggest I’ve ever seen.
The technique was a little different than bridge dipping. There’s no current flow, so we’d just walk the edge of the ponds and shine our headlamps in, looking for shrimp resting on the bottom. Then we’d snatch them in the nets one at a time. For this, we used nets with handles about 4 or 5 feet long.
Wading the flats was a cross between the two methods. The shrimp might be on the bottom or moving with the water. The short-handled nets were a lot more convenient. The only hassle was no easy access to the cooler, so we carried 5-gallon buckets with hinged lids and a little ice in the bottom.
It’s been a long, long time since I went out to dip shrimp (other than netting a few here and there for bait), but those were fun times. Maybe this winter I’ll go out and give it a shot, and see if the action is till anything it was in the old days. Might even try it from a boat this time around. We sure saw a lot of shrimp drifting the tide in Boca Grande Pass this past tarpon season. I’ll bet there are some around in late winter before the silver kings show up.
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.