On this planet, in this atmosphere you would soon starve for breath in three minutes. Light barely penetrates enough to see a foot in front of you. Populated by denizens who eagerly sink their pincers and claws into soft flesh as they tear and render the flesh from body. Though not large in stature they are large in numbers. Spider-like they rattle over their prey and soon reduce foes to skeletal remains.
In addition to their pincer like limbs or vice like claws fortifying them for battle, their own skeletons are external giving armoured protection. Eagerly they await any foreigners who dare to enter their dark domain.
Why would you volunteer to enter into this world. In the dark of night. Armed with little more than rope and burlap! What would posses you to battle such an enemy.
TASTE! Nothing but TASTE!
For below these hard exteriors, these forminable entities have soft pink flesh. When combined with salt, a little water or olive oil, nothing is so succulent as crustaceans caught with your own ingenuity – with the help of a friend or two.
Previously unknown to me I am fortunate to live in an area, not only fruitful in salmon, cod and halibut (see my previous BLOG The One That Got Away ), but also with sea water shrimp. Delicate, scrumptious and plentiful.
As in my previous seawater adventure, I am accompanied and guided by my expert in all things fishy – Gordon.
And like the Hobbit, I am compelled by my culinary spouse, and joined by others seeking similar adventure and delectable treasure.
So we merry three head off to sea. Jo- Anne and I as novice but eager participants led by fearless leader Gordon (who is at least as tall as Gandalf).
Hand versus Machine
So what is required to bring home the bacon – or in this case creepy crawly shrimp.
One might at least picture launching the trusty aluminum boat of fishing lore, encumbered by vast nets that must be slung while balancing precariously on undulating waves.
Foragers of the 100 mile diet, we bring home only what is required for our next daily consumption.
If you are fortunate to know Gordon, then all you need is 10 meters (30 feet) of rope, half a meter square (18-24 inches) or so of burlap, a bicycle rim and a used yogurt/margarine container – with lid – but punctured with holes.
High Tech Tools
Assemble the above. To the container, add the most putrid fish head you can find and close the lid. (By the way, given shrimps’ lack of discerning taste buds, you can also use old seafood flavoured cat food or similar).
Add weight and throw it off your closest wharf – if you happen to live neat a wharf. Well , you actually lower it slowing so it sits just above the seabed floor. Oh yes, make sure you tie the rope end to a solid post or beam.
Then comes the hardest part. Go for a 10-15 minute walk.
Return and slowly pull up the rope to which the burlap, rim and disgusting bait is attached.
Hand over hand your home made trap comes slowly to the surface. Suddenly you see a mass of life squirming and jumping all around the bait container. Confused by the elevator rise the meal seeking crustaceans soon realize that something is amiss. The better part of valor is to disembark quickly – which they immediately attempt!!
Now the goal is quickly bring the trap to shore/dock before everything returns to sea. The objective is to get the shrimp laden basket to land quickly. The balancing act is not to tip the precariously balanced bicycle rim – dumping your future shrimp salad into the bay – before that goal is attained. Made harder as the trap swings towards the wharf and catching an edge loose the load.
Their are probably numerous technical tools available to the commercial fisherman or want-to-be’s that are more effective. Perhaps that is done by others, but we are residents of the west coast. It is only fair that our prey has a fighting chance to survive – and breed.
Despite the loss of over 50% of each load, most pulls net from 5 to 15 shrimp.
However, the adventure has just started as now is time to hand pick each delicate, fast escaping shrimp. They must be transferred to your salt water bucket previously prepared for transport.
If you thought grasshoppers could jump then try and catch a wet, slippery, scaly shrimp who are squirming and jumping at the same time. IN THE DARK! So you can understand why the bluehands – the water, the air and the catch are all very cold. Oh – and yes I am wearing surgical blue gloves. What did you expect! That I would try to catch slimy, scaly things bare handed 🙂
Despite the challenge we soon complete the task and return the trap to water for its next load.
Repeat as many times, with as many traps as law allows, and you soon have your quota. There are other treasures coming to your traps – crabs and other entities unfamiliar to most of us. Rock crabs are plentiful and a Dungeness crab or two. Despite their ability to inflict small wounds as you try and grab your slippery shrimp, many are too small to consider. All these, plus the smaller shrimp, are returned from whence they came for future consideration.
The Weigh In
End result is over 2 Kgs (5 Lbs) of fresh, ready to eat shrimp.
Many ways to prepare your shrimp, but we chose the simplest. Boil with a little salt. Transfer to ice water to stop the cooking. Eat.
But as a first time shrimper I also got to take some home and freeze in preparedness for Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend.
Others were put aside to enjoy in a simple omelet – salt , pepper, hot sauce and green onions.
Another great adventure
All ends well. Thanks to my intrepid partners Gordon and Jo Anne. Special thanks for allowing me to live on this great island with its abundance of nature, adventure and substance.