From Edisto and Beaufort to McClellanville and Georgetown, each morning during shrimp season the air fills with the deep-dieseled rumble of these hard-working boats as they head out to sea for a long day of trawling. This is a tough, take-it-on-the-chin, often thankless profession beset with pitfalls—bad weather, engine problems, the breakdown of a $5 part or worse: a torn net. Yet thanks to them we enjoy a ready supply of one of the most delectable items found in Lowcountry cuisine—sweet, delicate, just-caught shrimp straight from the docks
Built for Trouble - These strong, working boats with flat sterns and high-hulled bows are designed to take the repeated punishment of rough weather and rolling seas. The average size is in the 55- to 78-foot range, but some boats are as small as 25 feet.
Rock & Roll - Trawling is done at a low speed across continuous swells from the ocean which cause the boat to pitch and roll. To ease this rolling motion, triangular-shaped stabilizers attached to the end of the outriggers are lowered into the water. These hydrofoils steady the boat’s pitch.
Pulling the Load - Trawling is accomplished by pulling a net—also called “trawl”—through water behind a boat. A “bottom trawl” allows the net to brush across the ocean floor; a “midwater trawl,” as the name implies, is not as deep. A trawl typically lasts from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on conditions.
Bye-bye Bycatch - A drag often includes “bycatch,” such as squid, crabs, jellyfish, sharks, and small fish that need to be returned to the water. To relieve bycatch and protect species, two devices are required by law: the Turtle Exclusion Device, which keeps large sea turtles from getting trapped in the net and drowning, and the Bycatch Reduction Device, designed to release small “trash” fish.
Laws & Order - Shrimping is one of the most carefully regulated of all maritime occupations. Each year (usually in May) the opening date of the commercial shrimping season is determined by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources according to weather and shrimp growth cycle.
Blessed -The 32nd annual Blessing of the Fleet Festival takes place on April 28 at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park.