WINTER COLUMN: Time to stock the freezer
Shrimp-baiting season cranked up this weekend, so get cracking. You’ve only got two short months to enjoy this Lowcountry tradition.
The Post and Courier’s Bo Petersen put together a great shrimp-baiting primer last week, with all the rules and advice on how it’s done.
If you didn’t catch it in the paper you can find it by searching for “shrimp” on postandcourier.com or by visiting tidelinemagazine.com. There’s even a video showing how to cast a net — without holding the leadline between your teeth.
Here are a few more tips, picked up during my own shrimping trips:
When making bait balls, give them a little time to firm up before dropping them in the water.
Also, make them a bit flat, like a hamburger patty. Otherwise, they could roll in the current away from the poles or get entangled and torn apart by the net.
When you toss them out, do it gently or they’ll break apart. Don’t drop them right at the pole, either. Think about where the middle of your cast net will be when it hits the water. That’s where you want the bait.
Whatever time you were planning to tell your significant other you’d be home, add two hours.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard or said “let’s make just one more run up the poles,” I could buy a lifetime supply of shrimp and hang up the cast net for good.
Plus, you might want to anchor up and spend an hour heading your catch on the water.
Who wants a few gallons of disembodied shrimp heads piled up in the kitchen or stinking up the trash can?
After you get home, you need to figure out what to do with all that shrimp.
I use a digital scale to measure out about a pound and a half per package, so we can defrost the right amount for a given recipe.
I usually vacuum-seal shrimp before freezing, though I’ll also use gallon Ziplock bags. I’ll add a little water and squeeze out as much air as I can (without making a mess) to help prevent freezer burn.
Here’s a important tip, learned the hard way: Do NOT simply toss bags of shrimp in the freezer.
Even without the sharp “horns” on their heads, shrimp come armed with little spikes and sharp edges at the tail.
You can count on your freezer bags springing pinhole leaks. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with shrimp-juice icicles and pools of stinky slush all over the freezer.
Gently lay a couple of bags filled with shrimp in a deep metal baking pan, then slide the whole thing into the freezer.
The pan should catch whatever leaks out before everything freezes solid. Don’t overload — use as many pans as necessary.
Manage your crew’s expectations, and remember that shrimping is all about having fun. Don’t drive yourself to exhaustion or frustration.
If amassing a stockpile of frozen shrimp was the only goal, visiting the commercial docks with a few bucks in your pocket would accomplish that quicker, easier and cheaper.
Red snapper data
This weekend marked the first time in years that recreational anglers could legally keep red snapper caught off our coast.
The recreational fishing season opens for two consecutive weekends this month, Sept. 14-16 and Sept. 21-27, with a bag limit of one fish per person per day. There is no minimum size limit for red snapper.
And if you took advantage of the mini-season this weekend or plan to next weekend, you can help scientists get a better idea of how the population is doing.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has placed freezers at select locations for recreational anglers to drop off red snapper carcasses and fill out catch cards.
The catch cards are intended to provide data and information about a fisherman’s trip, such as date and length of trip. Biologists will measure the carcasses and remove the otoliths (ear bones) to determine age. Data collected during these short seasons will be used in the 2014 red snapper population assessment.
To help, simply filet your fish as you normally would, keeping the head and tail intact. Take the carcass to one of the collection freezer locations (listed below) and place it and a filled-out catch card in the provided plastic bags. Tie the bag closed and place it in the freezer.
Georgetown Landing Marina 432 Marina Drive,
Gold Bug Island, 1560 Ben Sawyer Blvd. in Mount Pleasant
James Island Yacht Club, 734 Wampler Dr.
You also can fill out an online survey at surveymonkey.com/s/SCDNRRedSnapper2012 or by following the links at sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.
Reach Matt Winter, Tideline magazine editor, at 843-937-5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org.