Best Way to Catch Shrimp

Various Tools for Catching Shrimp

The varieties of tools and methods for catching shrimp is quite extensive. Each tool requires some experience and skill set; practice makes perfect. It goes without saying that you do not always go out to fish for a new species and load the cooler. The first time I targeted redfish around the inshore waters near Surf City, NC, I spent nine frustrating and fishless days before I figured out the pattern. Now it is a pretty good bet that I can pick up some dinner every time I go. Shrimping is no different. Familiarize yourself with some of the shrimping tools in this section and you will increase your chances for a better harvest.

Commercial Shrimp Boat: While commercial shrimping can reap bountiful harvests, this is a learned trade and not an activity for the tourist or recreational angler. These anglers are very experienced in a job that is physically demanding and often times dangerous. Though this is not an activity for the recreational fisherman, I have included a video released by Southern Shrimp Alliance that is both informative and entertaining.

Cast Net: Cast nets are circular nets with weights distributed around the perimeter. They are intended to be repeatedly thrown and retrieved and are very productive for catching fish, shrimp, or bait. The net is thrown by hand so that it spreads out in the air before landing in the water and sinking over the target species. Cast nets are typically made from nylon or cordage and common sizes range from 4 to 12 feet in diameter (although cast nets can be bought at 20 feet or larger). A handline is attached to the net at one end and is tied to your wrist at the other. The mesh design that makes of the net is typically between 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch. Your target species, as well as regulations for your area, will help you determine which mesh size is best. Cast nets can be thrown from the boat, piers, and docks, from shore, or while wading in the water.

ADVICE FOR CHOOSING A CASTNET: One of the primary questions I am asked is, “What size cast net is the best to throw?”. There are many factors that dictate this answer: the strength of the person throwing the net, the target species, the depth of the water, the skill of the thrower, etc. My best answer is “The size that you can throw best!”. No need to kill yourself throwing a big net if all you can throw are bananas. Practice at home from a chair, boat, or picnic table, and your experience on the water will be more productive. Watch this video of how to throw a shrimping net.

Seine Net: One of my fondest memories as a child were family vacation weeks in Garden City, SC. My Grandfather was the ultimate outdoor enthusiast and there were plenty of cousins and uncles that were always game for wildlife adventure. Seine netting is an old, traditional method which is not used nearly as much as when I was a kid in the early 1980s.

Seine nets consist of a length of mesh netting bordered on each end by a wood or fiberglass posts between 6 and 8 feet. The mesh net between the posts is typically six feet in height with small flotation buoys along the top line and weights along the bottom line to keep in touch with the floor of the creek or ocean. The dimensions of a seine net vary, but the average size is around 6 feet high by 30 feet in length. These nets are drug through low tide creeks or close to shore with a person on each end post. Check out the following seine net video from YouTube:

Dip Net: A dip net is very comparable to a normal landing net for fish however, it typically has a smaller mesh size and can be equipped with a long pole or handle. Dip nets can be used from boats, below bocks and bridges, or even as the angler wades along in shallow water. The dip is used to net shrimp that are visible as they pass by in the upper water columns. Often, a green light is used at night to attract shrimp and aid with visibility. This is a very common tool for shrimping in Florida of off bridges and break walls during all seasons including winter. Check out the following dip net video.

Shrimp Trap or Shrimp Pot: These names are often used interchangeably like shrimp and prawn. There are slight variations in appearance and design, but for this article, we will refer to them as shrimp traps.

The best way to describe a shrimp trap is a downscaled version of a crab trap. Typically, the trap is square or oblong with multiple entrances where shrimp check in, but they do not check out. There is an area for bait; we will discuss our top bait for shrimp trap later in this article. The wire mesh is much smaller than crab traps, so the shrimp are not able to escape. A lead line is attached to the top of the shrimp trap that can be secured to a floating buoy, a dock, bridge, or the gunnel of your boat. Make sure you check your area’s regulations with regards to proper permits for using a shrimp trap. It is also important that your trap is marked with certain identification tags that link the shrimp trap to you. Check out this great overview of a common shrimp trap.

Let’s Talk Locations and Conditions

When were they biting? What did you catch them on? How were the weather conditions; was it windy? Was the water clear or a little muddy? Did you happen to notice the water temperature? How deep were you getting the most action? Were there any boats around you having success? There are many rules of shrimping besides the list goes on and on and on when it comes to conditions.

O.K. If there were only five answers to each of these questions (and there are many more), and these were the only variables anglers faced each time they hit the water (and we know there are countless others), we would have a 1 in 9,765,625 chance of having a successful fishing outing. Good luck, right? The fascination with this scenario for me and most all other anglers is that fishing is an ongoing competition between weather conditions, water specifications, a fish’s appetite, and the angler’s ability to problem solve on the fly so that each outing is a successful outing regardless of the storyline. However, for the purposes of this article, I will discuss what we consider the most optimal conditions while shrimping coastal waters along the Southeast coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

Where? Your local seafood markets! Just kidding. Shrimp are a migrational species but spend a great deal of time during certain months of the year along the immediate coast and in most estuary systems. They are readily found in small creeks and in larger bays feeding on shallow flats. Most of these areas are relatively shallow allowing you to catch shrimp using a cast net, seine, or any of the previously mentioned tools. A good start is to experiment with a cast net in a variety of small tidal creeks until you find the areas with the best concentration. Then it will be a matter of perfecting your skills to maximize your catch.

Another factor when considering where to shrimp is to pay attention to water conditions. By condition, we mean water clarity or salinity. Pink shrimp prefer clear water, brownies like more depth with water that is more stained, and white shrimp prefer shallower water and tolerate less salinity than their cousins. No matter the variety of shrimp, they all have water conditions they prefer that will greatly assist the angler in eliminating vast amounts of unproductive waters.

What Time? When considering the best ‘time’ to go shrimping, it is always important to look at your local tide predictions. A good rule of thumb with tidal waters is, “When there is less water, there are fewer places for fish to hide”. In other words, the hours leading up to and following low tide are the best for hands-on recreational shrimping as the shrimp tend to be more ‘concentrated’. Call your local bait and tackle store or check the newspaper for a current tide schedule in your area. Plan your outing for a time when the tide is low so that you can concentrate on the intertidal areas.

Often it is more productive to catch shrimp at night or when the moon is full. Take extra precautions when planning a night trip. Even areas that you consider to be familiar take on a very vague appearance at night. It is often difficult to get your bearings at night and even familiar areas can be quite disorienting, especially when shrimping from a boat. I have lost more than one acquaintance in boating accidents, including my great grandfather. Always be respectful of the dangers of the water and know your limitations. Happy shrimping, but please be safe on the water!

Mother Nature:  What does mother nature have to do with this? Everything. As discussed, tides and daylight can play critical roles in shrimping success. Mother Nature controls the wind, the currents, precipitation, and temperature. Shrimp are somewhat less affected by these variables as humans, but in order to be successful and safe, it is paramount to take the weather conditions and forecast into careful consideration when planning an outing. Water is dangerous enough when conditions are perfect. Ideally, we like to plan a shrimping excursion that gives a good balance of water clarity, tide, and weather conditions so that we can focus on what is most important, catching shrimp in optimal conditions while always taking care to be safe.

It is important to note that shrimp are very light sensitive. They will typically be found in shallower water than normal on overcast days. There are many different types of shrimp as well.

Shrimp Catching Techniques

We have briefly discussed some of the more popular tools used for catching shrimp. Let’s now discuss some of the various techniques utilizing these tools

Shrimp Baiting with a Cast Net: Using bait for shrimp has been very popular in South Carolina For many years. In fact, it is so popular in SC that regulations were set in place in the early 1980s to govern the number of licensed recreational shrimpers and the quantities of shrimp being caught. At one time in the early 1990s, there were over 18,000 shrimp baiting licenses issued in SC. Like any type of fishing, using shrimp bait balls can result in difficult days where your catch may not be as good as hoped. However, using shrimp bait in conjunction with a cast net can result in amazing shrimp catches that will fill your belly and quickly overload your freezer.

The 60-day shrimp baiting season in SC begins at noon on the last Friday on or before September 15 (the SCDNR has been known to modify this start date, so always check your shrimping regulations).

You can purchase a license online or by calling 866-714-3611. In-state, residents pay $25 while it is significantly more expensive for out of state residents. You will receive 10 tags with your shrimping permit (we will explain the tags later). You are allowed to keep 48 quarts of shrimp per 24 hour period per boat/license during this 60 day season. This is a lot of shrimp so there is no need to be greedy.

The basics of this method are to utilize up to 10 poles (PVC, bamboo, or otherwise) to serve as a visual reference for applying your shrimp bait balls. Bait balls are made using menhaden fish and a binding agent. We feel that Bait Binder The ‘Original’ is the best bait to catch shrimp. Our products come pre-mixed so all you have to do is add water and stir. Check out this quick video for a mixing tutorial.

Up to 10 poles are placed in a linear fashion taking no more 100 totals yards of fishing area. Each pole should have its own permit tag and some reflective tape for visibility. Bait Binder The ‘Original’ bait balls are placed in front of or between the poles. Do not place the bait balls too close to the poles because the goal is to get a cast net to open over the top of the bait and sink to the bottom; thus trapping the feeding shrimp. Make your bait balls about hockey puck size. They will sink straight to the bottom and stay in place. Two per pole is plenty, and these two bait balls will attract shrimp for many hours.

It is recommended that this type of shrimping be done by at least two fishermen. Having a competent boat driver is as important as having someone that is efficient with a cast net. Watch the following 20-minute shrimping seminar for more information on shrimp baiting and the best bait for shrimp: The ‘Original’ Bait Binder; Bait with Balls!

Shrimp baiting with a cast net can be a method that is easily utilized in your area or state. Just always make sure to check your regulations regarding the use of bait for shrimp and be mindful of your daily rules regarding catch limits. Shrimp love Bait Binder The ‘Original’. If you want to allure all the shrimp to one area and make throwing a cast net more fun, give The ‘Original’ a try. It is quick, durable, and potent; you will not be disappointed.

Shrimp Trap (or Shrimp Pot): Shrimp traps are typically made of metal mesh while shrimp pots often made from a corded mesh; similar to cast net material. The size of the trap or pot varies depending on the various sizes and types of shrimps you want to catch. Both of these structures have one or more funnel-shaped entrances directed inwards. Shrimp, attracted by the shrimp trap bait inside, enter through these funnel-shaped entrances are unable to escape. Shrimp traps and shrimp pots come with other accessories that make this technique very effective.

As needed, weight should be added so that the trap/pot stay on the bottom without shifting around. Shrimp traps are designed to catch more than just a few shrimp, therefore they need to stay in place often as long as 12 hours. There are vinyl coated weights for sale, but you can use old dumbbell weights or any old pieces of iron. Let factors such as water depth, currents, and weather forecasts determine how much weight is needed for your shrimp trapping conditions.

It is recommended that you use a weighted rope (see Blue Steel line) to assist in keeping the shrimp trap from lifting off the bottom. Always use 25% more line length than the depth of the water where you are setting your shrimp trap. Attach a brightly colored buoy or float to the other end of your lead line. Take care to choose a buoy size that is enough to float your line but not enough to lift your trap off of the bottom in heavy seas. Paint your buoy a bright color and check your rules and regulations; some states require you to put your name, address, and phone number on the buoy. Other states require you to display your boat hull number.

What is the best bait for shrimp traps? Bait Binder The ‘Original’ of course. Shrimp are ravenous feeders and will eat most anything that releases a protein smell in the water. Tuna, canned pet foods, and fish carcasses are all good choices, but for ease of use, effectiveness, and durability, pick up a bag of Bait Binder The ‘Original’. Happy Shrimping!

Dip Netting for Shrimp: Dip netting for shrimp is popular in many areas, but perhaps nowhere more so than Florida. Dip netting, especially at night, has become a favored recreational activity. It is one that can be enjoyed by all familiar members, most importantly, the younger kids.

After the sun drops below the horizon, shrimp move into shallower water in most estuary systems. This is good news for the recreational fisherman. You can use this method from a boat, pier, dock, and in some instances, from shore. Dip net shrimpers will utilize lanterns or submersible lighting (typically green light is best) in conjunction with bait to draw the shrimp in. Anglers will wait to see the shrimp passing by in the current and use a dip net (as described in our shrimp tools section) to gather their harvest. As always, be familiar with your area’s regulations with regards to bait and equipment regulations. We always recommend The ‘Original’ Bait Binder as the “go to” bait for shrimp.

Check out this awesome video demonstrating the excitement of dip netting.

Seine Netting for Shrimp: One of my fondest memories as a kid where the weeks we would take a summer vacation in Garden City, SC. I looked forward to these seven days in July more so than Christmas. The beach, the roller coasters, Sam’s Corner Arcade, and when I got older, the young ladies in bathing suits (of course) were all favored attractions. However, the most anticipated part of this trip was the dock sitting on the Garden City channel. Garden City channel was small, maybe 25 yards across, but it was long and full of almost every type of salt creature the area had to offer. We enjoyed crabbing, fishing, trapping minnows, throwing the cast net, and pulling my Grandfather’s seine net for shrimp. Much of my love for saltwater originated with Joe Leyh, Sr., and I am eternally indebted to him for sharing these times with me.

Pulling a seine net is often a wet, muddy, and tiring activity, but it is fascinating in the varieties of species you encounter as well as the bountiful harvest of shrimp it can bring. Seine nets are typically 20 to 40 feet in length and four to six in height. The bottom edge of the net is lined with lead weights to keep the lower edge on the bottom to keep shrimp from escaping. The top edge has small floats or buoys to keep the top of the net afloat. The ends of the net are attached to wooden or fiberglass poles that are used to drag the net along through a small tidal creek. The two ‘net pullers’ positions themselves at a distance from each other that allows there to be a bow in the length of the net and will typically pull the net upstream, or against the current. After pulling the net for a distance, both anglers will drag the net onto an exposed sandbar to check their catch. All unwanted by-product catch should be returned quickly to the water to avoid unnecessary waste. This process can be optimized by using shrimp bait, but check your local rules for this as well as equipment regulations.

Old Faithful: Go to a seafood market. Of course, this is utter nonsense. You are now way too knowledgeable to resort to these measures!

Happy Shrimping!!! Successful recreational shrimping is an activity that can be accomplished whether you are tourists new to the area or a seasoned local. Be sure to be knowledgeable of your state’s rules and regulations and always be respectful to the environment. Remember to make Bait Binder The ‘Original’ part of every shrimping outing. Please be safe on the water and Happy Shrimping!

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