No matter how you present them, dead shrimp are undoubtedly one of the most effective natural baits a South Mississippi angler can toss into our coastal waters.
Yes, live shrimp are top-notch offerings, but the scent oozing from a dead shrimp can be better than the live ones at times under certain conditions.
Let’s take for example the conditions we’re facing at this time with rivers and bays being heavily influenced by all the latest rainfall.
With water conditions having the look of chocolate milk due to heavy, water-staining sediment, an angler must present the bait right in front of most fish, and the extra allure of the scent is the kicker.
Since salt water is heavier than fresh water, fishing at this point and time will be conducted on the bottom.
Although cold weather bottom feeders like black drum, sheepshead, flounder and redfish are quick to suck in a dead shrimp, at times a deep-dwelling speckled trout will eat a dead shrimp dangled in front of its nose.
There are many ways to fish a dead shrimp, and going with a lone jig head is one of them.
The beauty of using a jig head is that all one has to do is tie it to the end of the reel’s main line or leader material.
It’s that easy because the jig offers a combination of both hook and weight all in one.
One of the best ways to fish dead shrimp on a jig is to pinch off the first two joints at the tail section, and then thread the hook from the tail section down toward the head.
To keep the presentation as natural looking as possible, make sure the shrimp lays out flat behind the jig head, instead of being curled up on the hook.
A whole shrimp can be threaded on the jig, too, but by pinching off the tail section, this allows more scent to disperse. Also, by pinching off the tail of a live shrimp, the same method can apply at times, especially when fishing in clear water.
This tactic applies well when fishing the sandy bottoms and clear waters of the barrier islands. It will fool specks, reds, whiting, flounder and pompano. Another way to offer a dead or live shrimp on a jig is to insert the hook under the bottom and out the top of the head, missing the small dark spot, which is the shrimp’s brain.
The traditional Carolina rig is a proven bottom fishing rig, too, and works well in our coastal waters for most bottom-dwelling species when sweetened with shrimp.
To rig, first slide a quarter-ounce egg or bullet weight on the main line and then tie on a small barrel swivel. The barrel swivel keeps the weight from sliding down to the hook and allows the fish to swim away with the bait without detecting the tension of the weight.
Next, tie on a length of leader material like 25- or 30-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon, and finish off with your hook of choice. Generally, this will be a j-hook, octopus hook or treble hook. A Gamakatsu 4X Strong treble hook works well for bottom-hugging flounder, especially since they have a hard mouth and a knack for shaking off at boatside.
To present a whole dead or live shrimp on a treble hook, one can hook it through the head at the base of the horn, or even pinch off a tail section and hook through the last tail section. Either way, the shrimp will lay out in a natural horizontal matter along the bottom, and by moving it along slowly will generate flounder strikes.
Remember, don’t be shy to set the hook hard on a flounder due their tough mouth, and be quick with a landing net at boatside.
Many anglers make the mistake of using too much leader on their Carolina rig. Generally, the leader needs to be no longer than 6 to 12 inches in length. For most species that keep their nose and mouth to the bottom, a short leader will keep the shrimp in their feeding zone.
If the leader is too long, then it may drift about in the current well off the bottom, thus resulting in many missed opportunities for redfish, flounder and black drum feeding close to the bottom, especially in muddy water.
The basic three-way rig is another simple way to fish a dead shrimp.
Tie on a small SPRO three-way swivel to the main line. There will be two eyes left, and on one tie on 12 inches of 25- to 30-pound-test leader material, and finish off with a 1/0 or 2/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook.
On the last unused eye, tie on a length of leader material a bit shorter or longer than the hook’s leader, and finish off with a one-quarter to 2-ounce bank sinker.
Depth of water and strength of current will determine the amount of weight needed.
You’ve heard the credit card commercial saying, “Never leave home without it.”
Well, that same saying should always apply to taking along a supply of fresh dead shrimp. And if you’re into bumping a soft-plastic bait across the bottom like a Cocahoe Minnow, Norton Shad, Salt Water Assassin or Deadly Dudlies, feel free to sweeten them up with a pinch of fresh dead shrimp.
Especially in tainted water conditions, the extra scent and taste may increase your number of strikes, and lead to a wider variety of species taken.
Bottom line: If it swims, it will eat a shrimp, so be sure to take advantage of these crustaceans and their appealing effect on the taste buds of Coast species.
Know your bait shops
There are numerous baits shops scattered about South Mississippi that offer both live and dead shrimp.
Generally, most of the camps, shops and marinas carry a supply of dead bait, but one should always call ahead of time, especially if it’s live bait you seek.
If you ever need a heads up on the latest fishing reports, pick up the phone and call the shops.