Tuesday, September 6

Shrimpers Looking Forward to Fall Season

The shrimpers along the South Carolina coast have been struggling through most of 2011.

The business normally picks up in September so when we surprised shrimpers Bobby Graves, (The White Horse) right and Robert Gay below, just outside Beaufort over Labor Day weekend, it was nice to find them in good humor.  It had been a good week.  And why not?  They are seasoned shrimpers on the cusp of the most wonderful time of the year.....

My friend Doug Busbee reminded Robert to come upstate and stay with him if the weather gets bad.  To which he replied: "When I see Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel arrive then I'll know it's time to go."  But between you and me?  Gay doesn't seem like the type of guy who would evacuate.  He just about kissed Hurricane Irene a few weeks previously.  "She was right there!"  He excitedly pointed out, "I mean Right. There." And he shakes his head.

He's pointing out past the harbor between St. Helena and Hunting Islands, toward the Atlantic.  I now know from personal experience of the mud flats that lie beguilingly between us here in the marsh and the choppy waves of the Atlantic.

We had just motored through those mud flats to cast net in the marsh on the other side.  It looks like peaceful harbor -- plenty deep -- but it's really shallow water over sand bars with only a skinny little deep area of creek running through.  Very deceptive.  You would think you could just go zipping over all that water, but no, you'd get stuck. There's a small margin of error navigating those waters.

We avoided the sand bars because Doug has memorized the topography of the mud flats to perfection and he pays close attention to the tides.  We entered the marsh and avoided the oyster beds in the same manner, rolling through like a pinball, zig-zagging and dropping the net at the least sign of activity under that water.  The fish have gone for awhile.  The low pressure of Irene pulled them out to sea.  But we still caught a few.

Tune in tomorrow to hear Doug say "We have a slight steering malfunction," as he pounds the small boat motor with a carpenter's hammer.

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