If there is one thing I have learned about fishing over the past fifty plus years as an angler and guide is we all seem to have particular ways we do everything from casting our line to baiting our hooks. The way these technique nuisances are utilized will quite often be the little things that help make one angler more successful than the other.
One of the questions we receive more frequently during the Anglers for Conservation Fishing Workshops we conduct each winter and spring is, “How do you properly hook a shrimp?”
To answer, we start by telling the students that there are as many ways to hook a shrimp as there are ways to cook a shrimp! This usually provokes a chuckle or two, and the shaking of heads in agreement. This humor also helps lubricate their minds; this helps them to also consider the many options they have to approach this fishing fundamental.
For nearly twenty years, I procured shrimp at Satellite Beach’s Shamrock Bait & Tackle for my fishing charters on the Indian River Lagoon. The owner and a mentor of mine, Ed Havrilla, sworn that you needed a lively shrimp to catch gator-size seatrout. For years, Ed and his knowledgable staff actually handed out hundreds of free Gator Trout buttons to anglers who caught spotted seatrout weighting over seven pounds from the surrounding lagoons; on the button they would print the size of your catch.
Ed taught his clients how to slip the point of the hook directly under the shrimp’s front horn and above its eyes at the front of its head. He would tell them to be careful not to hook the shrimp in the brain (a dark spot near the base of the horn) or “It will kill them… dead.”
Ed’s technique worked, but the shrimp often came unhooked and flew off whenever my clients tried making that extra long cast. Plus about half the time when I was in a hurry to “bait-up” I would miss the target and hit too close to the brain. killing the shrimp.
By watching other guides hook shrimp and experimenting with several other techniques myself, over time, I found it was much easier to hook the shrimp from underneath its body into the last segment of its shell directly above the shrimp’s tail. This technique proved to be more secure (the shrimp rarely flew off the hook); easier to do in a rush; and also the shrimp stayed alive longer and casted better than when we hooked them at the base of their head’s front horn.
Just as important as where and how you hook your shrimp, is the size of the hook you use. Recently while discussing this topic with TJ Stallings, Daiichi hooks/ TTI-Blakemore Group, TJ made an important observation anglers should keep in mind whenever looking to choose the right hook size. “My only advice besides using a circle hook is; becareful to choose the right “gap” (between the point and shank) to fit the fish’s lip. For an example; a size 2/0 circle hook would fit the lip of spotted seatrout to eight pounds, while the same-sized hook would probably not fit over the lip of the same-sized redfish. They have a much bigger lip, so going up a hook size or two is recommended. But be careful not to go to big. Smaller hooks penetrate faster, have a smaller profile and your bait tends to stay livelier, longer when hooked with a smaller hook.”
Yes the size of your hook makes a big difference in your hook-up success. And as I stated earlier there are many ways to hook a shrimp, and typically I will change rigging tactics when we are sight fishing over shallow grass flats for bonefish, permit, redfish and other gamefish cruising the flats. In this scenario I suggest you first pitch off the shrimp’s fantail just above its last shell segment. Then using a 3/0 circle hook hook the shrimp through the top end of its tail threading it into the body until the hook is completely covered, then push the hook’s tip out of the shrimp, turn around its point and hook it into its body between its legs. This way your rig is hidden, more weedless and the scent of the shrimp will permeate into the area when it hits the water. Also the shrimp stays out the grass, so it is easier for the game fish to find and eat.
We have experienced great success hooking both fresh dead and live shrimp this way.
Of course, there is a different technique for anglers to use when you are fishing with pieces of shrimp to catch baitfish: pinfish, pigfish, croakers, grunts, etc., and you best use a small wire hook.
TJ suggests, “I would go with a #6 or #4 Aberdeen wire hook. And keep in mind that red out fishes gold and bronze combined.” I suggest you only use a piece of shrimp enough to cover and hide the hook, no larger than that.
When taking kids fun fishing and using small pieces of bacon, hotdog, shrimp or squid we often use Tru-Turn Blood-red size 6 or 8 hook.
Yes there are as many ways to hook a shrimp as to cook a shrimp, but there are only a few ways that work best!