Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shrimp Fishing

The first time we ran into freshly caught shrimp was in Hunting Island, Georgia, last fall. Since then we've seen shrimp featured on restaurant menus and in grocery stores and seafood markets all along both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. We saw shrimp fishing boats everywhere but could not find anyone who took people out shrimp fishing. And I was really anxious to learn how it was done. So imagine my excitement when I saw this sign in Biloxi, MS:
The boat was just docking:
The next trip was in 1/2 hour so we booked to go.Tara went with us so we had to sit at the very back of the boat out of everyone's way. It was a bit chilly but we had a great view of the demonstration.

As the shrimp live in the in the mud in the bottom of the ocean  they are caught by dragging a net along the ocean floor. First mate Steve explained how the net works:
It is thrown off the back of the boat and slowly let out into the ocean as the boat moves forward.

With the net goes a length of chain:
The chain stirs up the ocean floor bringing the shrimp up from the mud and into the net. The net is held open by these two pieces of metal:
When the net is full it is pulled into the boat by reversing the procedure. The metal is closed and the net and chain are reeled in, hopefully full of shrimp.On this trip they caught nothing. Which was to be expected. The water was too cold and it was not shrimping season. But we did learn a lot about the shrimp fishery.

The water in this area of the Gulf of Mexico is very shallow and normally very warm. Ideal for shrimp which grow better in warm waters.
These swimmers are a long way from shore and the water is just above their knees.
Each female shrimp produces up to 25,000 eggs which she carries with her until they hatch. Once hatched, if the water is warm enough, the shrimp will grow 1 inch every 7 days. The shrimp season opens when the shrimp are large enough to harvest. An expert from the Department of Fisheries determines this by catching the shrimp in the normal way, weighing out a pound and then counting the number of shrimp in the pound. If there are 68 or less shrimp in a pound the season opens. Usually, depending on how warm the water is, the season opens around May 1st. This has been a colder than normal year in the Biloxi area and they anticipate the season will open in late June. It will close when the water gets cold and the shrimp migrate further out to sea. Usually in December. There is no limit on the number of shrimp a shrimper can harvest.

The boat we were on is designed more to accommodate people than to harvest shrimp. Most shrimp boats look like this:

When we discovered this shrimping trip we were on our way home from lunch at a very excellent restaurant (more about it in the next post) in Ocean Springs, Mississippi where Arch ordered the grilled shrimp in balsamic dressing, which was excellent. Needless to say they would not part with the recipe but I think this one is pretty close:

Grilled Shrimp in Balsmatic Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Approximately 1/2 lb shrimp per person

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside and let warm to room temperature.
Grill shrimp on the barbecue or in a grill pan until done. Do not over cook. As soon as the shrimp are pink remove them from the heat. Toss in the room temperature dressing and serve. 

This is how they were served at the restaurant:

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