A Lively Shrimp Story
Soon our coastal waters will be overrun with thousands of shrimp. As shrimp enter the adult stages of their lives an inner clock tells them its time to move from the safety of inshore bays and estuaries to their offshore spawning grounds. On cold nights with bright full moons their ghostly images will be a common sight for boaters at night near bright lights. Gamefish of all types and sizes will be feasting on them as they migrate to their spawning grounds. Tarpon, Snook, Ladyfish, Snapper, Jacks, Trout and countless other species will be feeding actively. Its a great time to buy a couple dozen shrimp and spend a few hours at dusk or dawn, especially during full moons and outgoing tides.
I love offshore fishing but sometimes, as has been the case in the last few weeks, winds keep my small boat and me close to home. Fortunately there are many fish that can be fished near shore. For me the best way to cover more ground is to work shoreline areas where mangroves and rocks hold fish. Areas where currents get deviated or where pockets of calm water are adjacent to strong current are very productive. Its a fishing method very similar to what bass fishermen do with artificial worms and other lures. You simply locate good structure and work the area. A trolling motor is probably the best way to navigate your boat along the shore. Best times are at daybreak to around 9-10AM and at sundown and a couple of hours into the night. Tides play a vital role in this type of shallow water fishing. Gamefish will come in to these areas when higher water gives them maneuverability and stealth. Shrimp are often swept by incoming water and are left vulnerable and away from cover. Fish shoreline areas preferably on incoming water and on outgoing tides fish areas where shallow water leads into deeper channels and drop-offs. Gamefish will be waiting in these areas for the running shrimp.
My favorite rig for shrimp is the troll-rite. Lead headed Capt. Hank Brown Hook-Up lures have always been my favorite for this type of fishing. I run the hook through the under side of the shrimps head between the 2 black marks and up through the horn. The hook should be left uncovered. The shrimp will jump and jerk in the water as you retrieve it. You should fish as you would a Texas rigged artificial worm. Cast it and retrieve it slowly. Work parallel to the shoreline about 20- 30 feet away and cast at the structure on the shoreline. It can be bumped on the bottom as to imitate a swimming shrimp. You can also retrieve it a bit quicker as if the current was carrying it. It depends on whether you are fishing an area where there is current or not. If youre fishing a bridge, position your boat up current and let your shrimp drift with the current into the bridge. Observe the waters under the bridge and try to locate areas where baitfish and birds are present. These areas will generally hold predator fish. If you are fishing down current you should cast out to the bridge and retrieve slowly. Your retrieve will make it appear as if it were being carried by the current. Your line should be as light as possible. I generally fish 6 10# test unless Im targeting Tarpon where Ill bump it up to 15-20# test. Often I will tie the line directly to the Hook-Up Lure to increase my hits. If Im getting many hits I will add a small (10-20) 15-20# test leader to my doubled main line. The double line will prevent the thinner line from cutting through the thicker line. Short leaders and double lines are necessary for ease of casting. If Tarpon are present Ill bump my leader up to 40-50# test. When Tarpon are feeding a nice Circle Hook with a big shrimp will allow a better hook up than the Troll Rite rig.
Live shrimp are readily available at most bait stores along the Keys. If possible select your own shrimp and pick the largest, liveliest and lightest colored ones. These will be easier noticed by fish and will last longer on your hook. Smaller fish will also tend to stay away from larger shrimp and not steal your bait. A good live well is important to keep them alive. Shrimp will live longer and stay friskier in colder water and they even survive without water in ice for a while. Try a shrimp this winter and see what comes to dinner. Bass fishermen can show off their precise casting abilities to their friends.
Tightlines from Waldo DoubleTreble Tejera Jr.
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