SHRIMPING In Puget Sound

Al Kelly and I began shrimping in the spring of 1996. There were reports of shrimp in Elliot Bay off of Duamish Head in 200' of water. Several years earlier, my Puget Sound fishing mentor Gary Krein, adding shrimping to one of his charter trips and I got to see how it is done. I immediately bought two shrimp pots, but never had the opportunity to use them. Al agreed to try it, so I decided to pick up 2 more pots for Al, and Al on his own went ahead a got one, so we had one extra since the limit is two pots per person. I also got the season shellfish license.

The new pots had 4 lengths of re-bar on the bottom of the pot to weight it down. I like that idea so much, I went out to the local hardware store and got 8 bars to rig the other two pots.

I had 50' lengths of rope from before with loops on one end and clips on the other. We picked up some 400' rolls and broke them down into 200' lengths. I remembered from what Gary had done, that he used a trash can to contain the rope, so I decided to use a laundry basket so I could wash off the rope. Later I would figure out that I needed to drill some holes in the bottom of the laundry basket so the water could drain. All the rope we started with was coiled for normal storage and it was a bitch dropping a pot and trying to pay the line out from the coil, whcih I then remembered was why Gary kept the line in a trash can.

For our first drop, we picked the west side of Duamish Head. When I put the first one over the side, I let the rope go as fast it would pay out into the current, while a light breeze was blowing in the opposite direction. I'm pretty sure I had 250' of rope (one 200' length and a 50' length) and we were in 200' feet of water. When all the rope payed out and the buoy went over, we watched the buoy zip away from us then disappear under water. Hmm. We learned not to let go until we were sure we were on the bottom. Some days it was very difficult because of the wind, but it's a must.

We put out the remaining four pots, all floating when we finished. Then we realized that even though we thought we are out of the traffic lanes, a tug boat with a barge comes along and it's very close to the buoy, just off the stern of the tugboat.

When we went back several days later, only two pots were left. The next time we went out, we decided to move them inside off the boat launch ramp and Salty's. There were quite a few other pots there. We added our four. Yep, we got two more.

If you notice in the previous picture we used PVC poles inserted into the yellow buoys. My originals had lead weights at the bottoms. Al's had plastic pennants which helped the visibility a little. At times even they were difficult to see. I decided to make my own, adding about another foot to the length and using larger boat penance as flags. We can now see ours from over a mile away and can clearly tell the wind direction.

The ones Al bought had rebar inserted in the bottoms for weight. That worked great, but initially they bleed rust water in the boat. That stopped after the second or third time. We had a problem with all the buoys inserted into PVC pipe, in that they apparently would spin due to tide changes and boats passing by. That in turn would twist the rope. We solved this by adding a swivel between the pole and the rope.

 

This is Al Kelly bringing in one of his two 'pots' from 220 feet of water. Al is checking out the load as it clears the water. That's Duamish Head in the background. There were about 24 shrimp in the first pot.


This what they look like when we first see them.

I'm unloading my pot into a bucket so I can re-bait it and send it back down.

   

Every time we pull the pots, the catch is different. The best we've done is about 30 shrimp in one pot. And there are times when there are no shrimp in a pot. We had at least one time when all four had a decent amount of shrimp but usually two or three are OK, while the others may have a couple of shrimp. It's probably a function of the specific location of where they were. We also get quite a variety of other critters in the pot. Little orange starfish are a regular catch, but frequently we get the rather large multi-legged starfish. We've had small Flounder, small Dogfish, several other kids of fish that I have never seen before, an Octopus and a Squid.

We wondered that maybe when we had empty pots whether the Starfish or other critters may have gotten the Shrimp. We did have one of the larger Starfish reveal to us just the two Shrimp antenna sticking out of it's mouth. Wished I would have taken a picture of that.

We have used the remains of the Salmon we have caught the same day for bait. That is the most efficient. We used the dead fish that had been caught in the pots for bait.We have used frozen Salmon remains and frozen Herring bait from past trips. We used canned cat food, Salmon and Tuna varieties, and that works too!