Outdoor Notebook: Hunting for ‘ghost shrimp’
One recent morning we were up at 7 a.m., and turned on the television to get the early morning weather forecast. The weather report showed that we could expect partial sunshine, with temperatures in the low 70 degree range.
Oh yes, I neglected to mention that we were in southern Texas. We had spent two weeks in southern Texas and, unlike the usual south Texas weather, had not seen much sunshine. In years past we had driven through this area, and decided that we would enjoy spending some time there. Last winter we spent a week in Port Aransas, and are spending more time there this year.
Traveling with us are our long-time friends, Tom and Rosemary Twesme, who reside in Osseo. While traveling, Tom and I wear a Packer or Badger cap, each of which is always a conversation starter. Last year since the Packers were the Super Bowl winner, we received many more positive comments. There are many Wisconsin residents, “Winter Texans” who are residing in this area.
If you are wondering where Port Aransas is, it is along the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico, just north of Padre Island and Corpus Christi. We chose this area since it was our intention to fish.
We had spent the first few days in Texas inquiring about fishing in the area. From what we learned, the fish were feeding on ghost shrimp. We checked several sport shops searching for a shop that would sell us some ghost shrimp. Much to our disappointment, none of the local shops had any live shrimp-only frozen. We were told that ghost shrimp (Callianassa Islagrande) look like a cross between a shrimp and a crawfish. They are found by the thousands on coastal, sandy shores. They are a strong bait, capable of living in a bait container for days, can grow to three to four inches in length and are the favorite food of surf and bay foraging fish.
After a bit more research, we came across a device constructed of PVC pipe that is called a “shrimp sucker.” Apparently the best time to gather ghost shrimp is at low tide. We were told to go out on the sandy beaches at low tide and look for small holes in the sand, about the size of a pencil. We questioned whether we were being sent on a “Snipe Hunt” but we decided to attempt to find some ghost shrimp.
Our search began early in the morning at low tide, something that in Wisconsin we don’t have to deal with. When we found the holes, the shrimp sucker was placed over the small hole, the handle on the “sucker” is lifted, and a tube full of water and sand is pulled up. The objective, of course, is to bring up a ghost shrimp or two with the sand and water in the tube. The first morning that Tom and Rosemary hunted for ghost shrimp, they were out about an hour and a half and got about 50. Were they a magic bait? No, but I will always be looking for that one magic bait.
Most of our fishing time has been spent along the huge jettys that shelter the Corpus Christi Channel that many of the large ships come through heading for the Port of Corpus Christi. A jetty is a manmade pile of huge chunks of granite that extend out into the Gulf of Mexico nearly a half mile. The South Jetty is accessible from the beach, and attracts large numbers of anglers each day. The North Jetty is only accessible by boat, and sees a bit less traffic. There is a charge for a boat ride out to the North Jetty which discourages some anglers. Of course those anglers with boats can access the fishing along the North Jetty. More on fishing the Gulf of Mexico in the coming weeks.
Thus far the weather has shown us only sporadic sunshine and occasional rain storms-not typical of this area of Texas, but the temperatures have been very different from northern Wisconsin. Although it is great to get away for awhile, in my opinion Northern Wisconsin is the best place to live.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.