Monday, September 18, 2006

Shrimping On The St. Johns River

As I hoped, shrimping was on the menu yesterday. It seemed that everybody except Katie had something they had to do, so it was just the two of us that headed to the Palatka area in pursuit of shrimp. The ride over is nice, mostly through woods and rural scenery and the September weather was just cool enough to ride with the breeze instead of AC. It was a pleasant ride, made more so by Buffett's "Beaches" album, and good Katie conversation.




R
e
a
d
y
?










We arrived at the Riverdale boat ramp on the St. Johns River after lunch just as my cousin Rick and my Uncle Richard (expert shrimpers) were pulling in to launch their boat. Serendipity. It wasn't long before we were zipping across the river (about a mile wide at this point) to a cluster of boats that marked the shrimp's position.

The net I'm holding in the photo above is a specially modified castnet that is different from all of my other castnets. It is designed specifically for deep water shrimping. It has a much longer rope than your average castnet and a ribbon of clear plastic running just above the leadline. Both of these modifications are adaptations for deep water. The ribbon helps to keep the net open all the way to the bottom where the shrimp are.

















To use a castnet, you attach (loosely) the net line to your weak hand and throw the net in a spinning motion that causes the net to open as it flies. The lead line is loaded with lead weights that pull the net to the bottom. A net like this will weigh about 30 pounds, bigger nets weigh even more.
Once the net has reached the bottom, you pull the line in which closes the net into a bag full of (hopefully!) tastey shrimp.

















When the St. Johns shrimp come up in the net, they are very dark from being 20-30 feet down in the tannin stained river. Along the way, we caught a few small fish, but mostly it was shrimp, shrimp, and more shrimp.

If we had gotten on the water earlier, we would have caught even more, as everyone we talked to said they were even thicker early in the day. We didn't mind though, because we caught plenty and had a good time.

Katie and I worked out a little system where she was the shrimp gatherer and I the caster. It went something like this ...

She stands aft while I heave the net into the river. (This avoids whacking her in the head with the heavy net leadline)

Then I pull the net back in from the depths and "shuck" the shrimp out by shaking the net up and down over a tub.

The shrimp jump all over the place. Katie chases them down and tosses them in a 5 gallon bucket of water.

The shrimp jump out of the bucket. She rounds them back up.

Then she ducks aft again and I toss the net again.

Over and over ...

We shrimped steady from about 2:00 pm until 6:30 pm. I don't know how many casts that works out to be, but today it feels like about a hundred.

Towards the end of the day, a sinking sun and a sleeping first mate told me it was time to go, even though I was pulling up a dozen nice shrimp per cast .


m
m
m
m
m
!








(above: a sample, already headed and ready for the freezer)


The drive home was long and dark, but we had an ice chest loaded with fresh shrimp. That helped to ease the tired muscles and I was pretty stoked over our nice haul.

We got home late, about 10:30 pm. I could hear the bed calling my name at that point, but there were 500 shrimp to head. So Mrs. FC and I sat around the kitchen pinching their little heads off and then bagging them for the freezer.

It was a long day, but it was a good one.

Now, let's see ...Tuesday is fried shrimp, Wednesday sounds like blackened shrimp, Thursday maybe shrimp creole, Friday feels like boiled shrimp and an ice cold beer, Saturday ...





Posted by Picasa

23 comments:

Deb said...

I would hate to think what that amount of shrimp would cost here in Minnesota!

As usual, envy sets in...:)

pablo said...

Really sounds like a great trip. Good father/daughter time too, though I get the impression that you two get along well anyway.


By the way, how's your cholesterol count?

gawilli said...

What a wonderful life you have!

willi said...

What a cool post. This sounds like a lot of fun.

Laura said...

Wow, I wish I lived closer. I'd be up to buy a bag or two if you were willing to sell! Great post, enjoyed learning how to shrimp from the comfort of my air conditioned house and comfy leather chair, LOL.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

AWE...I wanna live there and do that. You get to do all the cool stuff.

rick said...

Glad you and Katie had a successful day on the river, caught plenty of shrimp and returned home safe with all fingers still attached. Maybe well see you again this weekend. After we divided our bucket and heads removed I ended up with 9 bags with about 65 shrimp per bag.Dad gave me more than half because it was my first trip this season.

Hurricane Teen said...

ahhh...how nice...I wish I had the chance to go out this year. Enjoy your shrimp!

Floridacracker said...

Deb,
We worked it out with our local prices and it is an expensive pile of shrimp.

Pablo,
It was and we do. Just gave blood last Friday so I should get a cholesterol report in the email soon. It's usually good.

Gawilli,
It's a precious one.

Willi,
This was fun and something I had not done for years.

Laura,
Well, maybe someday when you guys move back to the mountains of N. Florida ...


Abandoned,
Yeah, cool stuff. Right now I have to prepare to face 130 squirmy youngsters and keep them on task.

Rick,
It was great to see you two. Sounds like you mad out alright at the end of the day. I think we will be there the next weekend for Dad's birthday.

HTeen,
It was neat and you know exactly where we were.

Thunder Dave said...

OK Forest we get the picture! ;-)

Wow sounded like a good time, and looked like a great day to be out there!

Hick said...

You are killing me! I was down at Fisherman's Wharf on Sunday and I ordered Boudini's famous shrimp salad sandwich...which I had been thinking about since we left early in the morning.

They were out! I had to settle for Dungenous Crab in a sour dough bread bowl. YUM! Nothing like fresh D Crab right out of the boat...except maybe fresh shrimp right out of the boat.

Juli said...

*marking note on Friday... Shrimp Boil at FC's*

I'll bring the hand towelettes.

Laura (natural notes) said...

What time's dinner? I miss Florida's fresh-caught seafood!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Wow! That's really living....

Floridacracker said...

ThunderD,
I'll save a few bags of shrimp in the freezer for your next visit.

Hick,
Sounds great. We don't have D. crabs here. Bluecrabs and stone crabs...and lobster ... oh, and shrimp of course.

Juli,
I've got plenty of Datil pepper sauce too.

Laura of Natural Notes,
Well, Friday is homecoming so we may have to shift the shrimp boil to Saturday.

Floridacracker said...

Hoss,
Just trying to cram in as much as I can :)

Likes2mtnbike said...

Yah, you'll need to borrow some of Bubba Gump's recipes to use up 500 shrimp. Nice haul!

Likes2mtnbike said...

Hey, is the Serendipity a shrimper? I seem to recall handling traffic for a shrimper The Serendipity when I worked for KUZ383...we handled ship-to-shore radio calls back in the day. Us and the old GTE marine unit. We also had a tower on Cedar Key. I forget that call sign.

Floridacracker said...

Likes2mtnbike,
I just used it as in, "It was serendipity that I drove across the state to launch my boat at that ramp and arrived at the same time as my uncle and cousin"

I think it seemed like a boat name the way I used it after saying they were expert shrimpers.

rick said...

The shrimp from Mayport in your previous post had red legs. Some say when the St Johns shrimp start to get red legs they are about to return to the ocean. Didn't see any red legs last weekend so I hope we have another good day this Saturday.Dad said CJ got a bucket yesterday(Tuesday) in less than an hour.

Leslie said...

Didn't need AC? We got down to 44 last night. Granted, it was a big drop but still... I think sitting around the kitchen table with one's spouse and pinching the little heads off of crustaceans while exhausted would be one of those "I've got your six" moments, plus a nice way to end a busy day.

Floridacracker said...

Rick,
If not this weekend, then the next for Dad's b'day.

Leslie,
LOL, Yes, pinching the heads off critters is a great way to bond with your signifigant other.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I'm a reporter for the St. Augustine Record, and we're doing a series on the river. Will you be going out shrimping again any time soon?

Call me at 904-819-3498.

Thanks,
Paulette Perhach