On the way down to the Riverbreeze Park boat ramp in Oak Hill, I knew I was probably pushing the shrimp dipping season a bit.
Being on the back side of the full moon and with a cool nip in the air, I still felt I should give it a try.
I had begun dipping back in the late 1970s, but lately had taken a few years off to concentrate on throwing a cast net for Halifax River shrimp. That is less reliable and requires you to be there when the shrimp run but it is done in daylight. Dipping is usually solid all winter, but you must do it in the dark.
Upon my arrival at Riverbreeze, I was partially encouraged. There were a half dozen boats out, which means there could be shrimp, but I also knew that when the thing is going full bore, there would have been 30 boats on the water.
I launched right at dark and saw the tide was going out. That is a must for dipping. The outgoing cycle had begun at around 4:30 p.m. so that would leave me with around four hours to try my luck. After motoring about a half mile south in the Indian River, I came upon a couple boats setting up to shrimp and decided to anchor across the channel from them.
When you pick a place to shrimp, you need to find a place in the river where the channel narrows. I anchored on the eastern edge of the Intracoastal boat channel. To shrimp properly, you need a good anchor fore and aft in order to put your boat broadside of the current. Know the tide flow in the Indian River is strong and bring along the extra rope you may need.
Next I lowered my two submersible LED lights about two feet under the water. (You will need to play with that a bit in order to get it right.) Next I readied my two dip nets. I extended the handle of one and left the other at normal length. (Shrimp nets must have a 3/8th-inch mesh.) My nets are like new and were a gift from neighbors Ed and Martha. That nice gift was my incentive to get back into dipping.
As the darkness fell, I fastened the alligator clips on my lights to a spare battery. The water came aglow in green. Now all I had to do was sit and wait. One of the other boats had a radio and was playing the oldies that I enjoy.
Before long I saw a very large shrimp speeding past the stern and quickly grabbed the net with the extended handle. I just barely nabbed it and once in the boat, I found it to be the size of a Chiquita banana. After that, nothing much happened for a while and then a few small shrimp came past. I netted them to keep for future bait.
As the night wore on I became somewhat busy and the time passed quickly. By the time the tide slowed, I had at least two and a half gallons of shrimp. The limit is five gallons per vessel per day and, if you are required, you must have a saltwater fishing license.
The shrimp I caught that were eating size proved to be around four pounds once the heads were removed. Not a bonanza, but not a bad night’s work either.
Next time I will try and get there when they are really rolling through. Folks, this is a fun thing to do and the pay off can be great. Check the Oak Hill Shrimping Academy on the net for tips and equipment. The shrimp run will probably last through March. Give it a try.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.