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Wednesday, November 10, 2010


There is a new kid in town for some of the crab combo boats fishing out of San Francisco Bay. The crews on a couple of the charter boats are playing around with prawn traps to see if there might be yet another overlooked option for winter fishing.

The main quarry is technically called the coonstripe shrimp, which, at 3 to 4 inches, makes a healthy tidbit. The largest can be as long as 6 inches, which is almost a meal in itself. There is a commercial fishery to the north, the main effort made by boats out of Crescent City. The commercial interest is in live shrimp, which bring a pretty good price as marine resources go.

Another species encountered is the spot prawn. Like many of our commercial fisheries, the spot prawn fishery developed in Monterey. Incidentally caught in octopus traps, the fishery developed with trawl nets becoming heavily used, then traps becoming the final gear. Commercial efforts targeting the spot prawn have been more thorough, with the late ’90s offering the largest landings.

Sport shrimping hasn’t been all that popular, possibly because of the specialty gear versus the payoff. Recently, the couple of the charter boats have been experimenting with sport shrimping. On board the California Dawn, the haul hasn’t been too impressive.
“We’re still experimenting, getting it right,” said Captain James Smith. Perfecting the shrimp tactics may have to wait, since he’s taking a break from sport fishing to engage the commercial crabbing season.

Out of Emeryville Sportfishing, the New Huck Finn has also been adding shrimping to their combo trips. When I asked Frank Salazar at the landing to report on how the shrimping is going, he responded, “there really isn’t much to report.”

“It’s hit and miss. We’re getting some, but so far it’s not a very big deal,” he said. Part of the problem has been shrimp pot raiders, as in unscrupulous boaters who take advantage of the gear when no one is looking. The same kind of thing happens with crab pots, but legislation drafted a couple years back made it illegal to take someone else’ sport caught crabs.

For anglers interested in some private boat shrimping, there are some great information resources online. I found this site:, which details exactly how to rig and fish for prawns right here in California.

In addition, biological information can be found in the DFG publication “California’s Living Marine Resources, a Status Report.” While not ultra specific, the info offered does demonstrate how prawns are hermaphroditic. Males turn into females as they grow older. Also, geographical information demonstrates how the coonstripe shrimp dominates the northern waters, while the spot prawn is more abundant to the south.

While the prawn game might be a small bonus for anglers on crab combo trips, you have to hand it to the innovative crews that are giving it a shot. These are the kinds of starts that lead to bigger things, just as the crab combos began some 20 years ago.

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