How to Catch Spot Shrimp

How to Catch Spot Shrimp

Unlike other ocean catches, spot shrimp can be among the easiest and most rewarding for a beginner to go after. Because of the way that spot shrimp congregate and swell in population in relatively small areas, if you know where and when to harvest, as well as what equipment to use, you’ll be able to catch plenty of spot shrimp for you, your family, and your friends to enjoy on your next cook out.

Along the Pacific Coast of North America, you can find spot shrimp harvesting going on all the way from as far south as San Diego and up north in British Columbia and Alaskan waters. But, despite their availability and popularity in places like Santa Barbara, some of the most plentiful harvest are found in the cooler climates.

Best Recreational Spot Shrimp Harvests – Deep, Coastal Waters

Found most plentifully around the coast of Washington state, Alaska, and British Columbia spot shrimp are the largest shrimp variety located in these areas. Large populations of spot shrimp are present in several popular fishing spots, frequented by both hobbyist and commercial shrimp harvesters, including:

  • Washington
    • Surrounding the San Juan Islands
    • In Hood Canal
    • In the Northern Puget Sound
    • In the Central Puget Sound
  • Alaska
    • Prince William Sound
    • Around the Aleutian Islands
    • South East Alaska
  • British Columbia
    • Near Vancouver Island
    • Gulf Islands
    • Nootka Sound
    • Barkley Sound
    • Howe Sound

Among the locations where spot shrimp gather, they tend to swarm into the largest and easiest to catch populations near relatively deep water, formed by crevices in the ocean floor. Their habitats in the open ocean tend to range between 400 and 800 feet below ocean level, but most harvesting of spot shrimp out at sea is handled by commercial harvesters.

For more casual shrimpers, coastal harvests will be your best bet, and Washington up through Alaska will be the places where you have the most opportunity to catch fish. Unlike California or Oregon, which also have spot shrimp, the three areas we’ve gone over in the above list have numerous protected waterways where spot shrimp live where you’re sure to get a worthwhile catch.

You’ll Need the Right Pot, a Pot Puller, and Buoys to Catch Spot Shrimp

In contrast with other types of shrimping, where using a net might be the best way to get a large harvest, spot shrimping requires four main types of equipment, outside of your standard boating and fishing tools:

  1. Spot shrimp pots
  2. Electric pot pullers
  3. Shrimp buoys
  4. Shrimp lines

Spot Shrimp Pots

First, you’ll need to choose your spot shrimp pot. Choosing the correct style out of all the options available is a can be a more complex process that you might expect as you have to make sure to pick a pot that fits the location where you’ll be heading.

As we mentioned, the areas where you’ll have the best chance of catching plenty of spot shrimp are in protected bays and inlets. But, these protected areas, while they have large enough spot shrimp populations to harvest, also come with rules and regulations to follow.

Make sure to check in with the local ordinances so that all of your equipment adheres to any special rules that the local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office enforces. You’ll also want to purchase pots that have to can add at least 15 or more pounds to prevent potentially “losing” your pot from where you drop it. Depending on where you go, the tides may require you to get an even heavier pot.

Pot Pullers for Spot Shrimp

After you head to a prime spot, drop your pots, and let spot shrimp accumulate in them, you’ll eventually need to haul them back up. That’s where an electric pot puller can come in handy. 

As we discussed before, spot shrimp are commonly at least 400 feet below the surface of the water, so that’s quite a lot of hauling to do by hand just to retrieve your catch. Using an electric pot puller is a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to make sure you’re actually taking hoe what you catch.

Shrimp Buoys and Lines

Depending on the technique you use to drop your shrimp pots (something we’ll go over in the next section), you may need keep track of pots dropped in several locations. In that case, you’ll need large buoys attached to your pots that can float on top of the water to indicate where your pots are.

The line that attaches the buoy of to the pot is also important to choose carefully, as different kinds will either float (like poly line) or sink ( like leaded ground line). Having a floating line can be a bit of a nuisance, as it can get tangled quickly, so consider spending a little extra to get commercial leaded ground line, which gets you more value for you money since they are strong and last well.

Harvest Spot Shrimp Using Different Pot Strategies

When you’re catching spot shrimp, there’s two main methods that you can use:

  1. The single pot method
  2. The pot string method

Your decision between the two will depend on the location where you’re shrimping because different spot shrimp populations will require different strategies and each protected area will have its own stipulations for how many pots you’re allowed to use at a time. 

Single Pot Method

This method is commonly used along the coasts of Washington state and British Columbia, especially since both regions tend to have pot maximums for harvesters. Using one pot per location lets you even out your chances of getting a good catch, and you can vary the location, depths, and timing of your pot drops to increase your chances of catching more spot shrimp. 

Pot String Method

Another popular method is the pot string approach, which is also a common technique in British Columbia, as well as in Alaska. In this method, multiple pots are tied together so that they can all be dropped in one location.

This is a great strategy if you’re particularly confident about where spot spring might be congregating in your chosen shrimping area. As we’ve gone over, spot shrimp are particularly prone to spawn large population in relatively small, condensed areas, so using all of your allowed pots in one, highly populated area can yield you quite a large harvest in a short among of time.

Keep in mind that even though there will be multiple pots tied together, you’ll still want to make sure you’ve weighted them all properly so that they don’t drift away from where you’ve dropped them.

How Long Should You Leave Your Pots?

Whether you choose to use the single pot or pot string method, you’ll also need to determine how long you want to leave your pots to fill with pot shrimp. This is something that will also depend heavily on your location, as its common in Washington to only leave pots for around 5 hours, due to local regulations, while some in Alaska leave their pots for at least a full day.

Again, make sure to do your research about local shrimping rules, and consider asking around about other people’s methods. Success with spot shrimping can be a mixture of luck, experience, technique, and patience, so getting some tips from other local shrimpers certainly can’t hurt.

Attract Spot Shrimp to Dropped Pots with the Strongly Scented Bait

Another way that you can increase your chances of success is to add the right bait to your pot to draw spot shrimp to that location. The type of bait that will work best will depend on how long you plan on leaving your pot on the ocean floor, but in general, you want to use bait with a strong scent trail that the spot shrimp can easily follow back to your waiting pot.

If you’re working with a very limited time frame, you want to focus on using bait with a strong, quickly dispersing scent, such as canned fish with oil along with fresh fish for added scent. That way, your bait will have the chance to work its magic on a much wider area, which increases your chances of drawing in a large number of spot shrimp to your pot.

However, if you know your pot will be soaking for a longer period, you can add shrimp pellet that has been covered in shrimp oil, as this kind of bait won’t dissolve as quickly, providing a scent trail that lasts for the majority of time the pot is in the water.

Time Your Spot Shrimp Harvest Correctly to Maximize Your Catch

Once you have all the necessary equipment and bait, you’re ready to start your spot shrimping. Once again, it’s important to know all the local regulations, include the time limits on spot shrimping. Places like the Puget Sound and Hood Canal have strict hour limits, so you need to have your pots ready to drop right at the start time, so you can get the biggest catch possible.

Once you’ve hauled up your bounty of spot shrimp, don’t let your hard work go to waste. Make sure to have saltwater-filled containers on hand, as spot shrimp can lose their beloved, sweet taste very quickly if left out in the air before they’re frozen.

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