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Smooth Bay Shrimp

Smooth Bay Shrimp can be used for bait, if you can find them.

Photo by Rob Gensorek

Howdy everyone!

We’ve had a weird and wonderful phenomenon lately where the ocean is rough on weekdays but gets calm and fishable for the weekends. Those of you that are boat owners know that this is usually the exact opposite; every day at work you hear me on the radio telling you how nice and fishable the ocean is but then on Friday between three and five in the afternoon the ocean gets all torn up. Of course by Monday morning it gets nice again.

With this wonderful shift from the norm we are seeing a lot of nearshore rockfish and ling, longleader 40 fathom midwater species, and deepwater ling being scored in abundance. The only thing I would classify as slow right now would be crabbing and that’s pretty much par for this time of year so it’s not a big deal.

Our good friend Jody Smith of Jody Smith Guide Services has been gearing up for his summer season of salmon, bass, sturgeon and so much more as of late, but despite this, he has been taking some time to surf-perch fish. I’d even go so far as to say he’s got the surf-perch bug. Those of you that chase the tasty and abundant red-tailed perch know what it’s like when you finally figure out the where, when, and how of catching this species. This week Jody picked up one of our mole-crab rakes and set out to catch his own bait on the beach for one of his surf-perch forays. I can tell you personally that it’s almost as fun catching critters with one of these things as it is actually catching fish; every scoop is like Christmas in that you know you are getting something, but you never know just quite what it will be! Besides the obvious mole-crabs that you can catch with one of these devices my personal favorite critter to stick on a hook is the smooth bay shrimp.

The smooth bay shrimp is the least studied of all the bay shrimp species, due in part to its minimal economic value, but it’s the one we have on our beaches and it makes great bait.

The smooth bay shrimp, a small 2 inch crustacean, ranges from Alaska to central California and can be found in sandy areas and beaches from the waterline down to a depth of 260 feet. They have been described as “short and stocky” and they are exactly that, a short stocky little shrimp. Many species of shrimp defend against predators by way of their sharp body spines and spikes but the smooth bay shrimp rely solely on their camouflage, and what an amazing camouflage pattern it is. If the shrimp is on top of the sand they are near impossible to see, their beige color perfectly mimics the sand in which they reside and small flecks of black and white look just like off colored grains. Just in case their camouflage isn’t enough to stay out of trouble the smooth bay shrimp can burrow straight down in no time at all to either avoid predators or the surging tide. 

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Using its little legs and pleopods (pleopods are the little paddle like appendages under its tail) to agitate the sand underneath it the shrimp can disappear in seconds leaving only its eyes and antennae protruding. These masters of camouflage even use their antennae to sweep the sand above themselves and smooth it out once they are buried, leaving no trace behind. As they lay buried in the sand they will feed, ambush hunting, waiting for small (very small) fish and larval crustaceans to swim or float by. It is while they are in this state that the mole-crab rake is deployed and one simply scrapes a couple inches of sand away and sifts it clean as the surging tide returns to the sea.

You won’t catch a lot of them but with some effort you’ll get enough for a fishing trip or two, and if you’re a little kid at heart like me, you’ll have just as much fun catching the bait as you do fishing. I hope to see you out there.

Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle www.basintackle.com in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-FISH, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or email at basin_tackle@yahoo.com. Robs fishing reports can be heard daily at 6:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. on KRSB Best Country 103 out of Roseburg and his Basin Tackle Outdoor Show can be heard Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 a.m. at kwro.com. In addition to all this he sometimes actually gets out and catches a fish or two.

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