This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

River Shrimp

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


Blogger Bud Forester said...

Hi Jim,

We ate 'em ourselves, too. Taste good, but won't store long in the freezer. We usually baited with cottonseed cake.

Thanks, enjoyed the discourse

February 05, 2006 6:36 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Yes, we did too, but we always found that they had a very mild taste compared to saltwater shrimp, so mild that you might wonder that you were eating shrimp at all. Also, the shells seem to be very soft compared to saltwater shrimp, making them hard to peel. Sometimes we would just eat shell and all. And, yes too, we always used to use cottonseed cake to bait with but it has become hard if not impossible to find. One of the old papers that discusses river shrimp talks about how the guys who trapped them to sell live would take them out of the box trap that had smelly dead fish in it and put the shrimp in another box with nice clean cottonseed cake so that the buyer would not know the shrimp ate rotten fish. Protect the sensibilities I guess. Thanks for the comment, Bud. Jim

February 06, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Dugan and I usually set about a dozen or so yo-yo's on Lake Concordia during our RSFF Club semi-annual Fly Fishing outing. We usually bait the yo-yo's with worms. We were wondering what Lake Concorida (or any other lake) catfish would think of River Shrimp. If River Shrimp are found in lakes then most likely they would be in the catfish's diet and would do quite well. If these animals are not found in lakes then maybe not. Have you tried using River Shrimp in lakes?

February 17, 2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Magdrill said...

Hey jim,
Is there anyplace to buy the shrimp traps you have in your pics?

February 16, 2016 10:35 AM  
Blogger Magdrill said...

Hey jim,
Is there anyplace to buy the shrimp traps you have in your pics?

February 16, 2016 10:37 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Well, sorry to say the traps shown in the posting are not available commercially. I made the ones shown having learned how from fishermen who have done it for as long as wire has been on the market. You can't even get the same wire anymore since the product is now made in you know where and the wire is soft and has little durability. Again, sorry. But thanks for the question. I wasn't aware that anyone was still reading Riverlogue.

February 16, 2016 11:06 PM  
Blogger Magdrill said...

I came across it while i was looking for a better trap to catch our grass shrimp. The one in your pic looked perfect for the job. Im gonna try and duplicate it the best i can

February 17, 2016 1:29 AM  

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