I can still remember the first time that I went shrimp baiting. It was about 20 years ago in the Cooper River. We had 30 poles, and around a hundred bait balls. I remember only seeing one other shrimper out on the water. My father and his friend told me that we needed to keep our distance, because they had heard of others being shot at for getting to close, probably because they were shrimping over someone else poles. If I remember correctly we caught about 2 or 3 coolers of shrimp.
Things have drastically changed over the past twenty years. Some of the rules for the 2003 shrimping season include: 10 poles per boat with tags attached, one person on the boat must possess a shrimp baiting license (which can be purchased at South Carolina DNR for $25), and a limit of 48 quarts of shrimp heads on. So far this has been a productive baiting season. At first the shrimp were small, and I have achieved a limit 12 out of 15 times this season. This is not bad for a season that was supposed to be sub par, due Charleston’s previous cold winter temperatures and large amounts of rain. Everyone has their own methods, secrets, and equipment for shrimp baiting. Here are a few that have always seemed to help my numbers and comfort during the season. The first is good bait, until this year I have always used 50/50 fishmeal and bagged clay. This has changed after going shrimping with Ollie Burwell of Barton and Burwell. Our deal was that I provide the boat and the license and he would provide the bait and the beer. He showed up at the house with beer and bait in hand, but these were bait balls unlike any other that I had ever seen. They were premixed and called Bait Binder. These things are the deal; they are made up of 90% fishmeal and 10% binder. A 5-gallon bucket can be bought for about $20 and will produce about 50 bait balls. The good thing is they come premixed, potent, and last in the water for about 20 hours. Next I recommend a good lighting system, it is a must when your night vision is poor like mine.