Captain Mary A. Fink
Very few people can deny that shrimp are a tasty treat, and nearly all salt water fish concur. In fact, local species like sheepshead and black drum can be caught only on shrimp or other crustaceans. It is my belief that shrimp provide enticing bait offerings, but this is especially true during the winter months when water temperatures are cooler making it easier to keep the shrimp alive for extended periods, as shrimp are delicate crustaceans that tend to perish quickly.
Additionally, finding and catching baitfish is more challenging during cooler winter months when cold fronts can play havoc with water visibility. Another real plus to using shrimp is that you are likely to enjoy a real mixed bag of fish, as virtually all game fish regularly make shrimp part of their diet.
Because shrimp are delicate, hooking them properly is important. Avoid hooking the shrimp through the middle of the body or head if it is your intention to keep the offering alive for some time. I recommend hooking the shrimp through the horn on the very top of the head or through the tail. If the shrimp is dead, try snipping off the head andtipping a 1/8 to 1/4 jig head with the body of the shrimp. This way, the jig head actually acts as the shrimp head and provides a well presented offering. Shrimp can be rigged either on a jig head, a bare hook or tipped on artificial bait.
Another consideration I suggest is matching shrimp size with your targeted fish species. For example, small shrimp are most effective for pompano, which tend to have a short bite, and sheepshead, which are avid bait stealers due to their impressive arsenal of small stout teeth perfect for crushing crustaceans which make up the mainstay of their diet. Small pieces of shrimp can be used effectively when fishing for snapper and other reef fish with small mouths, especially when found actively feeding in large schools. Larger, jumbo shrimp should be chosen when targeting species such as snook, tarpon, red fish and large trout.
Among the fish that focus on shrimp as a primary dietary source are members of the drum family, including seatrout, weakfish, red fish, black drum, whiting and croakers. Other local game fish that regularly feed on shrimp are snook, tarpon, pompano, snapper, jack crevalle, ladyfish and a host of others.
Shrimp arewidespread, delicate crustaceans that live in all coastal areas where they feed on the bottom. So when choosing shrimp on your next fishing trip, try to keep the offering on or near the bottom for the most enticing presentation. An exception to this may be when free lining for yellow tail off of a reef, as often done in the Florida Keys.
Shrimp can be utilized just about anywhere from areas of abundant mangrove structure, to docks, bridges, offshore reefs and ledges. Using the incredible, edible shrimp for bait in our local fish rich paradise will surely increase your chances of catching a mixed bag of local game fish favorites today.
Captain Mary specializes in fishing the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands. She holds a “six pack” captains license and has a knack for finding fish. A passionate angler possessing over 35 years of extensive experience in both back country and offshore fishing, Mary offers fishing expeditions through her Island Girls Charters company. When fishing with Captain Mary, you will be exposed to a variety of successful techniques including cast and retrieve, drift fishing, bottom fishing and sight fishing. Visit www.islandgirlscharters.com to learn about fishing with Capt. Mary. Or reach her at 239-571-2947.