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Wondrous Shrimp – Understanding the Most Commonly Used Bait on Tampa Fishing Charters

Wondrous Shrimp – Understanding the Most Commonly Used Bait on Tampa Fishing Charters

Shrimp – it’s a wondrous creature inhabiting the seas. Not only does it provide food for Snook, Redfish and other sportfish in Tampa Bay, it’s also a delicacy in its own right.

Who can forget the scene from the movie Forrest Gump where Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue explains all of the ways you can prepare shrimp. As Bubba says early on in the following clip, shrimp truly are the “fruit of the sea.”

If the idea of a shrimp cocktail or kabobs are making you salivate, just think what it means to all of those fish swimming around the bays and flats along the Gulf coast. Except for mullet and a few other fish who are vegetarians, shrimp are a dietary staple for dozens of fish species. These delicious crustaceans live around grass flats and shallow marshes that span the entire Gulf and Atlantic coast of Florida. Some species of shrimp though can live in deep water, while some found in the world can live in freshwater.

Since shrimp are a dietary staple of so many types of game fish, they’re also a prime bait choice for general anglers and Tampa fishing charters. Not only will a Snook, Trout or Redfish gobble them up if properly presented, shrimp are also the best bait for novice fishermen.

Live vs. dead shrimp – choosing the best option for your Tampa fishing excursion…

Charters and individual anglers alike must first consider whether they will use shrimp that are fresh and still alive or ones who are dead and frozen. There are pros and cons to both, but often times, the decision boils down to availability since fresh shrimp are hard to come by during certain times of the year.

One benefit of using live shrimp is the simple fact they most closely resemble the fishes’ food in the natural setting. Many fish are attracted to the motion and noise live shrimp make when thrown into the water. It’s also less likely a live shrimp will be stolen by a bait thief and they are generally available at bait shops close to the water.

On the other hand, live shrimp cost as much as 3 times more than their frozen counterparts. It can also be challenging to keep shrimp alive and their availability is rather limited in the winter months. Now you can go out and catch your own shrimp to use for bait, but this can be time consuming and costly in of itself.

For a variety of reasons though, many Tampa anglers and fishing charters will opt for frozen shrimp. One advantage is cost, as well as availability. Frozen shrimp are available in more places and you can store them in your freezer at home. When you’re ready to go fishing, simply thaw them out in some water.

However, since they’re dead, frozen shrimp will not move in the water, so attracting certain species like Snook, Trout and Redfish will be a bit more challenging. Unfortunately, frozen shrimp also are more prone to bait thieves. Many small fish for example will nibble a dead shrimp without you even knowing it! Also, dead shrimp tend to come off the hook easier since the freezing/thawing softens their skin and meat.

Now some species like Black Drum seem to prefer frozen shrimp, but for popular sportfish like Reds, Trout and Snook, live shrimp perform better hands down.

Properly hooking your shrimp to conserve bait and maximize your catch…

Besides the question of live vs. dead, how you hook the shrimp is equally important. If you’re using live shrimp, you absolutely must avoid running the hook through a black spot on the back part of the shrimp’s head since this where many of its vital organs are. If you run your hook through this spot, the shrimp will die almost immediately and you will lose the benefit of its natural kicking.

In short, there are five general hooking methods for shrimp (live or dead). Regardless of what method you choose, the biggest thing to keep in mind is to avoid running your hook through the shrimp’s vital organs.

  1. The most popular method is to run the hook from the bottom side of the shrimp’s head until the barb comes out on top. This is known to many anglers and fishing charters as the “casting” or “trolling” method.
  2. If you’re bottom fishing for Grouper for example, a good method is to insert your hook in the top of the shrimp, work your hook around the black spot, then back up top until the barb appears again.
  3. Hooking from the tail is another popular method, especially if your bait keeps getting stolen or you’re casting a long distance. Insert the hook into the tail and run it through the length of the shrimp. You’ll want to make sure the barb passes beneath the vital black spot. While the barb stays covered, this method prevents the shrimp from swimming.
  4. Another method for rigging the shrimp through the tail is to run your hook either crossways or through the center of the tail. Many veteran anglers like this method since the shrimp can still kick freely. If you want to create more scent to attract fish, simply remove the fan tail.
  5. For dead shrimp, one method is to take the head off, remove the tail and feet and run the hook through the back or the front. You don’t have to worry about the black spot since the shrimp is already dead.

How you hook the shrimp depends on a variety of factors, including the water depth, what you’re going after and if any bait thieves are present.

If this seems a little confusing to you, that’s okay. Your Tampa fishing charter captain will show you the proper way to hook your bait depending on the circumstances.

To learn more about the importance of shrimp to anglers and fishing charters in and around Tampa, we invite you to visit or contact Capt. Steve Betz to schedule an outing today.

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