Royal Shrimp

A recent transplant from the Jersey shore (thanks to Hurricane Sandy), I am still far from settled in. What this means is that I certainly don’t have a boat yet and I have quickly learned that I know very little about fishing in Florida. What you guys do down here is nothing like drifting for fluke or jigging blues back home. Thankfully, I recently hooked up with a co-worker who has the same passion as I do. Let’s call him Roger for the sake of avoiding any additional embarrassment. Together, Roger and I have already spent quite a bit of time on the water and he’s proven he knows a ton about shallow water fishing. But there is one very weird quirk about this guy—he loves shrimp. His strange relationship with these flickering crustaceans is like nothing I have ever seen before. Truthfully, it’s freakish.


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If there is one thing I have picked up on down here, it is that some guys are artificial junkies who refuse to throw anything that isn’t made of plastic or metal. Roger isn’t like that. Roger is a live bait fisherman at heart. He is convinced that if it swims in a bay or lagoon, it eats live shrimp. Because of this notion, he absolutely refuses to use anything else. Considering his success ratio, I don’t think anyone can argue that fact. However, unless I am missing the boat, a shrimp is just that. It is one of a billion finger-long crustaceans found along coastal estuarine systems throughout the state. Big or small, shrimp all look the same. They also move the same way and presumably taste the same. What separates one shrimp from another is something I have yet to discover. Roger on the other hand has shrimp dialed in.

In preparation of any fishing trip, Roger spends long hours before the big day visiting a string of favorite bait shops. I kid you not when I tell you that Roger will spend hours driving from shop to shop just to procure enough bait for the following day. He literally chooses choice offerings with his own handcrafted silk dip net and makes his selection based on what he calls shrimp swagger, not size. I didn’t even know shrimp had swagger, but evidently Roger knows shrimp swagger when he sees it. He is very selective, sometimes only picking a few shrimp from hundreds based solely on the individual shrimp’s charisma.

Roger is meticulous in his careful study of shrimp, apparently seeing something special that you and I don’t recognize. He will not sacrifice. Roger has even gone as far as custom building a cushy bait tank in the back of his SUV with underwater landscaping, painted interior and an extensive filtration system. You’d think this guy was transporting exotic fish worth thousands of dollars, not bait shrimp.

Roger’s attention to detail is relentless. He plays classical music to the shrimp and feeds them at least twice throughout the night. He literally talks to them one by one as if he knows the shrimp on a personal level. I’m not sure if he is trying to soften the blow that the end is inevitably near, or if he has completely lost his mind.

In any case, Roger catches lots of fish with his special shrimp. He easily out fishes me 3-to-1. Every shrimp Roger puts in the water is quickly devoured by a fat redfish, snook or seatrout. I’m still trying to figure out if his success can actually be attributed to shrimp swagger? One thing I know for sure is that from now on I’m treating my shrimp like royalty. Maybe one day they will repay the favor.