Going Shrimping on Hood Canal
I spent today on the Hood Canal in search of its famed Spot Shrimp with my friend Ryan and his dad. I have been to the Hood Canal a few times to go shrimping, and every one of them has been memorable and mega fun. Hood Canal is one of my favorite places. It is a beautiful fjord. It feels quaint and welcoming, probably because it is only about 1.5 miles across for most of the fifty miles from its entrance at Foulweather Bluff to the end of it at Belfair. You can paddle a canoe backwards across it pretty easily. But it is deep in the middle, and these Spot Shrimp really like deep water.
The month of May is the unofficial kick off to the high season on Hood Canal, as pretty much everyone with a cabin on the Canal heads over for Spot Shrimping season. It is a short season, but one of plentitude. Ryan’s dad lives just a stones throw from the shoreline near the Hood Canal Bridge, he has a boat in the water, and from what I’ve been told a mean shrimp bait recipe!
I Remember My First Time Shrimping On Hood Canal
A dozen years ago, some friends and I ventured to the Hood Canal in May for our first foray in shrimping. We wanted to see for ourselves what we had hear, that You just have to go shrimping! and Wait until you pull that first batch off the barbeque, you won’t believe how quickly they disappear… they are so good! I was thinking, Man, these shrimping people are a little nuts over this. I quickly realized that it isn’t just about getting a couple hundred shrimp for the day. It is about soaking in nature, and teamwork, and feeding yourself from the land, and participating in a local tradition, and yes, getting that taste of this local treasure that we get way too few chances to find. Anyways, that first shrimping trip to Hood Canal, based out of Pleasant Harbor Marina so many years ago, was the beginning of our very own traditions.
Where Spot Shrimp Live
Spot Shrimp here are no secret, in fact they are arguably the most beloved shellfish and most anticipated season on the Canal. Boats populate the Canal as far as one can see, all hovering along that narrow ribbon of water above the magic shrimping depth of 200 to 275 feet. This is where you find them. There is a carpet of Spot Shrimp, sometimes so thick that you can see mass piles of them on the fish finder. I thought this was complete bull hockey until the first time I saw it, Sweet slow molasses! Those clouds on the bottom are shrimp?! Boat launches are busy. Yellow shrimp buoys everywhere. Boats everywhere dodging them as they idle around and wait for the pots to soak. But we were avoiding most of the busyness by staying on the north end of the Canal, it seemed nothing like what I have experienced in Puget Sound or the mid-Canal.
Shrimping with Ryan & Gary
We headed south to Toandos and waited for 9am, the official start time for the day. Nine to One. That is our window. We needed three limits, 240 Spot Shrimp. Shouldn’t be too tough, we are with the master. Gary lives and breathes this kind of stuff, he is in his element. I admire his bait mixture, it looks good and I wouldn’t mind getting the recipe. Good luck with that! I tell myself. True to the Shrimper code I guess. We joke about his homemade bait spoon. It was good to get out fishing with these two again. So the clock strikes 9am, and everyone within sight throws out their pots. We set all four pots within close proximity. We were on a steep drop off, and running a shallow one at 200 feet and a deep one at 260 feet still kept our gear within a one hundred yard sphere.
Our target was a one hour soak. Gary was excited. If you two weren’t here I would’ve pulled them up already! Waiting for the first pull is always the longest. After that, by the time each of the pots is found, pulled, emptied and baited you’ve almost given that initial pot an hour… so it goes quick. We joked around, and one by one the old timers who moor their boats at Gary’s marina idled by to chat.
They won’t let me pull them up Larry! The wait is killing me!
I can’t explain the mood on the water in words, you just have to be there, but it was a good mood.
We finally hit that one hour mark gave Gary the go ahead to take us to the first buoy. We were off to pull our first pot of the day.
Spot Shrimp Limits!
The day couldn’t have been better. Bluebird skies and no wind, and the minor tidal exchange made our task a breeze. Our first pot yielded 70 Spot Shrimp, and the other three pots yielded about 50 each. I’ve witnessed one pot with over three limits before, but we didn’t experience that today. But we were pulling in steady numbers in each pot. We were just shy of our three limits, so Gary only dropped three pots on our second set. I am sure that just one would have done it, but there sure were a lot of small Spots, so we figured we would see if we couldn’t cull out the littlest and find some jumbos. Just as before, each pot yielded about 50 shrimp each, so we picked out the largest and threw back the rest. It’s a weird sensation to let go a hundred beautiful Spot Shrimp after waiting a year to catch them. But we had our limit! The water was flat calm, and we enjoyed a few raw Prawns with Soy and Wasabi on the ride in.
We had another phenomenal day on the water and I can’t imagine that anything could’ve gone smoother. Plus a bounty of 80 large Spot Shrimp for the family really added to our accomplished mission. Thanks guys!
Helpful Spot Shrimping Resources
Riptidefish Spot Shrimp Articles
How To Catch Spot Shrimp
WDFW Spot Shrimp Page
WDFW Shrimp Daily Limits & Rules
WDFW Report Lost or Stolen Gear
WDFW Shrimp Identification Guide
WDFW How to Harvest Shrimp