Collecting Ghost Shrimp

By Basil J. Miller

I use a long handled small mesh (1/16"?) white net to collect the ghost shrimp. The handle is about the size of a broom handle. These nets you will see used at bait houses being used to scoop up live bait shrimp and fish.

Areas such as public boat ramps, parks and picnic areas that are on water frontage and where there is grass will usually have ghost shrimp as long as the temperature and water conditions are within the shrimps tolerable range. This certainly would include the Gulf Coast states as well as Southern California. Fresh water species inhabit many lakes, ponds rivers and irrigation canal systems. I wade around the grass beds and evenly and smoothly sweep the net in a scooping motion towards the grass from deep to shallow. It is not necessary to make a lot of commotion while moving the net ... smooth movement is sufficient to capture the shrimps as long as the water is not extremely clear (very clear water is rare in the Bays near Houston Texas where I live).

The water around the grass is usually a foot or so deep. There are oysters (and lots of shells in many of these areas) growing on any rock so you have to avoid those as they are sharp and will tear your net (and you too if you aren't careful). I wear rubber boots or old tennis shoes (but definitely something to protect my feet). When the tide is out I will usually have good success by raking the net gently across the bottom towards the grass beds and right up against the grass blades.

These shrimp are very easy to catch. You will also catch lots of small crabs and small fish (be careful you do not keep any fish considered game fish as a game warden would likely fine you several hundred dollars for each illegal fish). Check the game/fishing laws in your state/area. In Texas you need only a fishing license and a salt water stamp to collect 'bait'. The pipefish I catch are on a federal watch program but as of yet have not been put under any protection.

After catching the ghost shrimp I put them in a plastic 5 gallon bucket with a battery operated air pump and stone (you can get these where bait and fishing tackle is sold - Academy, Kmart and Wal-Mart stores here). If its very hot outside I put the bucket inside the air conditioned cab of my truck for the ride home. I also put the bucket inside a Rubbermaid container to contain any splash that may occur in transit.

Once you get your shrimp home a ten gallon tank with air stone and I use mangroves kept upright by inserting them in Styrofoam for filtration supplemented with occasional small whisper power filter as the only filtration. I'll usually transfer the smaller shrimp (ones of the right size for Seahorses to munch on) to the tank with the Seahorses. These shrimp will live a long time in the main tank as long as you feed them a little flake food every day or so. The larger females also usually have eggs under their tails which once they are released into the current make excellent food for Seahorses and corals alike.

The Specific gravity of the water where these shrimps are collected varies (as I have measured it) anywhere from 1.014 to 1.026 depending upon rainfall amounts prior to the collection trip. These shrimp can adjust to a wide range of salinity in my experience. If you will acclimate them fairly slowly over a few hours similar to how you would acclimate any salt water fish. Actually these shrimp can be acclimated pretty quickly once you get the hang of it. Just do not take them from 1.014 to 1.026 in 60 seconds unless you want to kill them prior to freezing them. If you do want to freeze some remove the heads as the heads will rot fairly quickly.

I enjoy collecting the shrimp and also copepods (or is it arthropods?) from clumps of grass in the bays. I will sometimes us a cast net in open sandy bottom areas and have caught small green eels, puffer fish, stingrays, small sharks, etc. I also scuba dive, boat and fish. I've always loved the water and everything in it and around it.

Most recent revision: 2002

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