I wanted to spend a day on a shrimpboat, working, photographing, documenting and experiencing what it was like.
On August 27, 2008, I had the privilege of experiencing the fulfillment of my wish. I got up at 3AM and went to the docks to board the Leo. The Leo is a 60' shrimpboat with a crew of 2 men. It's home port is Edisto Beach, South Carolina. It has a V-12G 420 HP engine. The boat is owned and operated by Garry Jones with 26 years of experience, and his first mate is Bobby Nolan, with 23 years of experience. The boat is a myriad of nets, cables, ropes, levers, and pullies.
We left the dock at 6AM, and put our nets out at 7:23AM. The nets are 2 - 68" Mongoose Shrimp Trawler nets built by Burbank Trawls out of Fernandina Beach, Florida. You will notice a round opening in the nets in my photographs. It is called the turtle excluder. It is designed the let the turtles and the larger fish out.
""The seagulls are our brothers."
The process of putting out the nets was truly awesome to watch. I had to stay out of the way because a person who doesn't know what they are doing could be severely injured. The first step is to let the outriggers down. The second step is to get the "doors" out to the end of the outriggers. I was amazed to see Bobby hop up onto the cable and climb out to the end of the outrigger to do something with the "doors". At that point, I was not sure what he was doing. The "doors" are attached to the nets, and when the nets are under water, they are designed to keep the nets open. Next the nets were lowered into the water. After that, a smaller net was lowered. It is the trial net. It would be pulled at regular intervals to see how the shrimp were tracking. If there were 15-30 shrimp in the trial net, we were in the right place.
We were about two miles off of Edisto Beach and trawled for about an hour and a half or two hours (I kind of lost track of time) before we pulled in the nets for the first time, emptied them, and lowered them again. This was, of course, after Bobby had cooked us a wonderful meal of bacon, eggs, sausage and fried potatoes. I remember in the movie Forrest Gump, when they pulled in their nets after the storm, the nets held nothing but shrimp. In reality, that is not the case. We had shrimp mixed in with jelly fish, horseshoe crabs, sting rays, sharks, sand dollars, starfish, and many, many, many varieties of small fish. At this point, I could see why the guys wore the tall rubber boots. They literally waded through the pile to get to what they needed. Then we started sorting. This is where I got involved. Many people would not have liked doing this, but I had a ball!
We pulled in the nets again, and then the process of cleaning out the nets and putting them up began. When I looked at them, I didn't see how they would ever get everything out that was stuck in them, but they went about it very methodically, and when they were finished, I was amazed. At this point, everything went in reverse from the morning of putting the nets out. We decided to make it an early day. We arrived back at the dock after 3PM where we proceeded to sort out the second load of the day. Then began the process of cleaning the boat and transporting our catch to the seafood processor who runs a seafood store of Edisto Island. This has got to be the freshest seafood in the world, right from the boat to the store!
I thought that I wanted to do this once in my life, but now I want to go again. It was a wonderful experience. I hope you enjoy my photographs
The catch before sorting.
By SHERRI MIZELL
Pelicans on the outrigger.