If you depend on line fishing to make a living, one of the ongoing things you have to do is catch bait - not buy - catch. Not buy, partly because you need too much, and partly because the difference between making a living and not quite making it is how little overhead you have. There isn’t much room to move around in line fishing economics. One way to catch enough bait is to use river shrimp, Macrobrachium ohione (Google for more details). Through much of the water cycle in the Basin, this is the bait of choice – it is plentiful (if you know what you’re doing), is easy to bait with, and it really catches fish. Because my rig was 1000 hooks, it was necessary to catch at least that many shrimp a day, and usually we baited that 1000 hooks more than once. Catching the shrimp was always satisfying, if you got what you needed. If you do it today, depending on the preferred technique, you can use traps made of ¼ inch wire or bushes made of wax myrtle and dipped with a big dipnet. Before wire was available, the old guys used to make shrimp boxes out of slats of cypress nailed to a frame, similar to the fish boxes discussed in an earlier posting. The flues, or throats, were ½ inch slots the whole length of the front and back of the box. The whole box was maybe 20”X20”X30”. The box usually had to be in the water for a while before it got really good, it had to be slimy and smell sour. If you add dead fish parts used as bait, the aroma was unique. Somehow wire just doesn’t have the character that the old boxes had, but just like most everything else we do now, it is easier. Many things could be written here about these shrimp, but I try to keep these postings to less than two pages because I don’t care to read long things on the computer screen, and I suspect you don’t either. I might mention that these shrimp are aggressive. They will kill anything they can catch and hold down long enough, including each other. They are so sensitive to the danger of being attacked by their kin that they appear to maintain a minimum distance from each other if they possibly can. I don’t know what that distance is, but if you watch 200 of them in a trap in shallow water, at night, they crawl around inside the trap in what might be called a panic mode. I think this may be because there isn’t enough space in the trap for them to separate from each other - rampant speculation, that. The pictures included here should illustrate the traps I use and the size of the shrimp suitable for bait. Maximum size is about 3.5 inches, but not many get that big.
The river is at 10.7 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge today. Still not much drift, but a big tree has become stuck to the side of my dock. Too much current to work it off right now but the river will start to fall and drop about a foot in the next five days, hopefully making it easier to move the tree. The Mississippi is falling and so is the Ohio. The trotline should lose a little of its tension, and that’s very good.
Rise and shine, Jim