Shrimp Hood Canal
If you want to experience the best tasting shrimp of the Pacific Northwest, the spot shrimp from Hood Canal, you have two options. You can be adventurous and catch it yourself, or you can buy it.
Where to Buy Hood Canal Shrimp
Normally the best place to get Hood Canal Shrimp is at the Brinnon Shrimpfest on Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, the Shrimpfest was called off this year due to lack of volunteers. Luckily YOU CAN BUY SPOT SHRIMP ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND – 10 am to 4 pm Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Brinnon Community Center located at 306144 Highway 101 in Brinnon, WA.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to try shrimping yourself, here are some tips:
How to Catch Hood Canal Shrimp
Basically you need a boat, shrimp pots (see special pot requirements), weighted line and buoys, shellfish license, bait (usually fish flavored cat food), warm clothes, a sense of adventure and a bit of gold rush mentality. There are only four days of shrimping: May 5, 9, 12 and 23rd, 4 hours each day. See all the rules at the Washington Fish and Wildlife website here.
You can’t put your pots in the water until 9 am and must have them out by 1 pm. People usually do two “pulls”. This prevents getting totally skunked if your first location is bad. It takes some skill to drop your pots and pull them. Why? With only a few hours of shrimp season, there are literally a hundred boats all crowded around the prime shrimping spots. Add windy weather, and tide movement and you have mayhem, tangled line, capsizes, lost pots and stinky boats with plenty of shrimp guts all around.
The brave will do it. The adventurers. For the rest of us, thank goodness for the sale of shrimp.
To get an idea of why shrimping is not for the faint of heart, we took a recent poll of the shrimping experts from Hood Canal who revealed their sage advice. And admittedly, things they had learned from experience…
Don’t show up at the boat launch at 8:30 am on shrimp day and expect to get out on the water before 9. There will be people lined up at “zero dark thirty” to get their boat in the water and it will be backed up to Canada. All of the greats spots will be taken and you will then be a jerk trying to drop your line next to theirs especially if its windy or a fast moving tide. Then, expect a repeat shortly after 1 pm as the flotilla returns to the boat launch. Many of them having consumed their own personal “anti-freeze” making backing up a trailer a real spectacle.
Location Location Location
The shrimp like to hang out near the bottom – usually 200 to 300 feet deep! That is a lot of line to pull up. Either have a “pot puller” or Arnold Schwarzeneger in your boat to make it happen. If you have a gas powered pot puller, don’t forget to put gas in it. Its best to invest in a depth-finder so that you don’t exceed the length of your line. See Pot Problems below.
Clothing and Hygiene
You will get wet and stinky. Even if it is not foggy or misty, there will likely be some current and wind and some splashing as you drop and pick up pots. So its nice to wear extra waterproof layers to keep dry and warm. Also there is the “head popping blow back.” Shrimp guts sometimes squirt all over as you extract their heads. Some clothing never gets the smell out. So don’t wear your good stuff. A thermos of nice hot coffee to keep you warm you say? Just remember, if you don’t have a bathroom on board your boat, you might want to curtail your coffee intake or make it dependent on the amount of time you can make it back to the harbor and the bathroom.
Too many Skippers, Not enough Deck Hands
Usually pick the person that knows how to drive a boat in wind and current. This can change several times during the morning due to wind, currents, waves, boats and pots. And remember that Arnold is busy.
You get my drift? and other pot problems
You put your name and address on your buoy and made sure it is a yellow buoy (as required), but you can’t find your pot. Many attach unique markers to their buoys like helium balloons, styrofoam objects, skull and crossbones, shiny streamers, underwear and other creative ideas. Oh, and don’t forget to attach the buoy to your pot as you expertly fling the pot into the water. If you remembered to bring a depth-finder you could have set a GPS waypoint to where you dropped your pot. If you still can’t find your pot by 1 pm, you’ll have to wait until the next low tide AND you have to call Fish and Wildlife and report a lost pot. This may help if they find it first, or if they find someone else who found it first. See WDFW rules “Do not attempt to salvage lost gear without getting a permit” website link. Pots have been recovered with a grappling hook. And no, you can’t keep the shrimp that’s still in there.
Don’t get out of line
Don’t miss out on most of the shrimp because your line wasn’t properly stored from last time you went shrimping. Untangling line in full sight of all the other shrimpers is a shattering shameful experience and will cost you precious time. Or your line gets caught in someones boat propeller because you did not use weighted line. This also costs the other person precious time and you don’t want to go there.
You pull your pot and have a million shrimp! Make sure to bring a separate bucket for each person with a license. Put a maximum of 80 per bucket. Also bring an extra bucket for popping their heads (the shrimp). Its ok to pop heads before you get back to the harbor. Most do and then dump the heads on their way back. Just make sure its NOT THE TAILS YOU ARE DUMPING OUT (looks of horror).
May 5th reports say most people got their limits, but there were more people shrimping than ever before. May 9th was very stormy and much less people went out in the 12+ mph wind. Many of those that did go out gave up due to problems pulling pots and tangles due to weather. May 12th was great weather and lots of shrimp. May 23rd the weather is looking good. Stay tuned for more information.