Recently, while visiting the “Secret Coast” of Mississippi, I was invited on a Shrimping Tour. The trip was out of the harbor in Biloxi, once known as the Shrimp Capital of the World.
I didn’t know what to expect. Besides knowing that I loved eating shrimp, I really didn’t know that much about the delicacies at the bottom of the sea. Nor was I sure how hands-on the expedition would be. I knew there was a good chance I could get dirty or wet. So I dressed casually and wore close-toed sneakers. I looked forward to this new adventure.
Biloxi Shrimping Trip provided complimentary tours for us. All opinions are my own.
Biloxi Shrimping Trip
The Biloxi Shrimping Trip sets sail in the small craft harbor area of Biloxi and exposes guests to the spectacular world of marine life caught on a genuine shrimping expedition.
We were scheduled for an afternoon expedition, but the weather forecast showed afternoon rain, so we switched to a morning excursion. We boarded the shrimp boat around 10:30, and much to our delight, there were only nine passengers. We had lots of room to wander around and get up close and personal with everything happening.
When we first boarded the boat, we were invited to go up on the top deck. David, our guide, gave us a safety briefing and explained a bit about the area, the varieties of seafood local to the Gulf, and the shrimping process.
If you are like me, when you think about a shrimping expedition, you think about being out in the middle of the ocean. Much to my surprise, many of the shrimp are caught within a mile or so of the harbor.
Upon leaving the harbor, we navigated in the calm, protected waters between Deer Island and the Biloxi shoreline.
Casting The Nets
David then went to the lower level to set the shrimping nets out behind the boat. He provided full details on what makes the net spread and operate correctly. We stayed on the upper level for a better view of what he was doing. After the nets were in the water, they dropped chains to drag along to stir up the shrimp in front of the net.
Catch Of The Day
It wasn’t shrimp season yet, and it was daylight. Most shrimp are out at night. The net catches all sea creatures in its path, along with shrimp.
Once he was ready to pull the first set of nets in, David invited us to come down to the main deck for an up-close view. When the nets were pulled in, the entire catch was presented for viewing. David identified most of the sea creatures in the net. Of course, there were shrimp and several blue crabs, pufferfish, and an oyster fish. Often they also catch flounder, stingray, squid, and other species of local marine life.
Blue crabs are plentiful in the Mississippi Gulf. The only place where they are more abundant is in the Chesapeake Bay Area around Maryland. David gave us a lesson on how to handle the crabs, and we had the opportunity to hold one. If you hold them in the correct place, they cannot hurt you. Hold them elsewhere, and the crab will likely pinch you.
A Shrimping Education
We learned that the Gulf around Biloxi is still a powerhouse when it comes to the shrimp industry. There are more shrimp available than will ever be caught, and there is no danger of overcatching the shrimp in the area. Only 9 percent of the available shrimp are ever caught; 95 percent of all shrimp remain in the ocean to fend for themselves.
The shrimp live near the bottom of the sea and are most active at night.
Guess how many legs a shrimp has. I bet you didn’t guess 26! They have five pairs of jointed legs for walking and five pairs for swimming, known as swimmerets, and three pairs for eating, known as maxillae or feeding appendages. They also have two pairs of sensory antennae, compound eyes, and a tail fan. I’m holding the shrimp by their antennae.
Shrimp come in three colors: white, brown, and pink. All are delicious to eat!
Mississippi Gulf White Shrimp grow to a reasonably large size and have long antennae and smooth shells that help distinguish them from others. Compared to the other shrimp, they are easier to peel and are slightly more tender.
The giant shrimp prize is the Mississippi Gulf Pink Shrimp. They are the largest in the area and can grow up to 11 inches in length. They are also easy to peel and are the preferred choice for boiling and steaming.
Shrimping season starts in May when the shrimp reach a specific size, and it lasts through November.
During our expedition, David put the nets out three times in two different areas. Each time they retrieved some shrimp and crabs but not the large nets full of shrimp I was expecting.
I had a lot of pleasant surprises during this experience. It was much more educational than I expected, and I learned more about shrimp than I ever imagined. The fact that was most surprising to me was that you can’t overfish the shrimp. There are more shrimp available than they will ever catch.
The seagulls following our boat for a free meal were also a surprise.
The surprise that put the biggest smile on all our faces was the many dolphins that followed our boat once they noticed the shrimp nets. They came so close you could touch them and were fun to watch.
An Unexpected Event
There were no bad surprises associated with the actual shrimp trip experience. But there was a person under the influence of something who jumped into the harbor and refused to get out. It distracted us a bit since no one knew what crazy thing they might do!
If I had the opportunity to go on another shrimping expedition, I would do it in the afternoon to see if they caught more shrimp. This 70-minute Living Marine Adventure Biloxi ShrimpTrip is a must-do experience when you visit Mississippi’s Secret Coast.
- Wear close-toed shoes that give you a bit of traction on the boat, where surfaces could be wet
- Wear casual clothes — you may get wet
- Use sunscreen
- Be prepared to go up and down steps
- Tours are first-come, first-served
- The operation is cash only upon boarding the vessel. You can pay via credit card online for groups of 10 or more people
For more Secret Coast inspiration, consider How To Spend A Perfect Day In Pascagoula, Mississippi, and this Scenic Gulf Coast Road Trip From Bay St. Louis To Port St. Joe.