Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Shrimping Life...

During the middle decades of the 1900s, an entire fishing industry grew up in our region. Hundreds of shrimping trawlers were built and put into service--many of them from the DESCO boat company in St. Augustine Florida--and thousands of men were provided employment as they brought food to the nation's table. Our favorite Captain, Clyde Carrell "Buddy" Lee spent about twenty years of his working life aboard these vessels and tells of legendary characters who plied the waters and lived the life. Here's another account of that life, from another "Buddy,"
"In summers, I had the opportunity to accompany Hugh Burrows out on the Pinta for all-day shrimping in the offshore Atlantic waters. These excursions were always memorable, but we worked hard. Bobo was not into providing pleasure cruises, if you went fishing with him, you earned it.
We helped with the nets, headed shrimp, hosed down the deck between catches, and cleaned the galley. During the drags, we took cat naps on the bow in the warm sunshine. The long extended double outriggers towed the nets, and the vessel's powerful Caterpillar Diesel engine towed the accumulating bags and catch along the seafloor.

Image courtesy U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries
The "Try Net" in the middle is pulled in mid-drag to see if there are shrimp present.

These trips were always made enjoyable by the food. The local shrimpers definitely knew how to eat. Usually, the striker prepared breakfast just as dawn broke and the sun rose over the horizon. With the first drag of the morning begun and a two-hour lull before hauling in the nets, there would be strong steaming coffee served up in thick crockery mugs with sugar and canned milk, hot grits with butter, and scrambled eggs with ham or bacon.
Lunch came in the early afternoon. It was often shrimp creole, prepared with shrimp that had been in the ocean an hour earlier, simmered in a thick-and-spicy, made-from-scratch, perfectly-seasoned tomato sauce, with onion, bell pepper, and a dash or two of oregano. This blend was served over real white rice, with sweet iced tea to wash it down. It was a grand, almost romantic life..."(from "A Georgia Tidewater Companion" by Buddy Sullivan)

Today; over-fishing, high fuel-prices, and pond-scum-shrimp imported from China have pretty much ruined this once proud and prolific industry. I could gross you out telling you what those pond-owners feed those shrimp they are raising, but let's just say that you can't make chicken salad out of what they eat.

Although the fleet is much smaller now, Georgia does still have reminders of what once was.
Image courtesy Josephine Johnson taken at Townsend GA.


Video courtesy of The Shrimp Alliance. Click here to visit their site
The boat-haul rails and winching-machinery at the old Sasser docks on Wilmington Island are now rusty relics. There are no boats to haul out. The shrimp-boats are going away. Many of them are abandoned, burnt, or sunk.
Image courtesy Diesel Engine Sales Company (DESCO)

You can still see a few shrimpers at work, and Nelson's Shrimp Company in Thunderbolt still sells Wild Georgia Shrimp caught right here (and the best shrimp to have for a Low Country Boil). Scuba Steve pulls nets from a small boat and sells them right here on Wilmington Island, at his store next to the Flying Fish Bar and Grill (which is, by the way, a great place to eat shrimp!)

Situated on Highway 80 just east of the Bull River Bridge, The Flying Fish has great seafood and a great atmosphere to match. The newly covered deck and big outdoor bar, complete with 85 inches of big-screen sports action, make for a memorable visit.
Please tell them you were sent by www.SavannahBoater.com!





Image via My Georgia Coast









There are glimmers of hope, but Georgia's shrimping industry is not what it used to be. Don't despair about this sad development. Life has taught me that the tides of fortune go out, and then they come in again. Sooner or later our shrimping industry will recover fully as people learn the truth about imported shrimp.


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