So, you caught the low tide after work on Friday and pumped some Ghost Shrimp for your weekend fishing trip. Fifty of your closest friends are swimming around in a bucket… now what? How can you store them so that they’re still alive, lively, and ready to go fishing in a day or two? If you have a saltwater aquarium set up for them, great. But if you don’t, and you just leave them in the bucket, they may all die from breathing their own waste products. Dead Ghost Shrimp are still good bait, but they get mushy and are hard to keep on the hook. Live Ghost Shrimp are better, plain and simple.
If you can keep your Ghost Shrimp wet (but not submerged in water) and cool, they can live for several days. Mick (sdfish.com moderator) and some other guys told me about how commercial shrimpers store their catch between layers of wet newspaper, spread out in cardboard flats (as in: a case of canned soda or beer). So I downsized the concept, and refined it a bit. If you put them in a sealed plastic container, you can put them right in the fridge without stinking it up and they’ll be ready to go when its time to fish.
The first step to ensuring the survival of your Ghost Shrimp is to pick out the dead and damaged Ghost Shrimp (better idea: sort and discard the damaged ones as you pump them). They’re probably gonna die anyway, and if you forget about them and dump them back in the bucket when you go fishing, it’ll just kill the live Ghost Shrimp sooner. If you do have some dead or injured Ghost Shrimp when you get home, refrigerate or freeze them separately to use for bait or chum.
To pack up your live Ghost Shrimp, start with a plastic disposable sandwich-sized container. Put a couple of paper napkins in it, extending out over the edges so you can fold the ends of the napkins back over the Ghost Shrimp.
Next, take a handful of lively Ghost Shrimp, say 10 to 15, and put them in the container. You don’t want a lot of water in there with them, only just enough to wet the paper napkin.
The number of shrimp you put in depends on the size of the shrimp and size of the container. You don’t want a big pile of them, but rather have them spread out evenly across the container. A sandwich-sized container will hold 50 medium-to-large Ghost Shrimp without crushing them. If all you have are jumbos, you’ll have to put some in a second container. If you pile a ton of them into a deep container, they may crush the ones on the bottom. And if they’re laying directly on top of each other instead of spread out, it will damage them. Remember, having even one dead Ghost Shrimp in your container can wipe out your whole stash.
To save space and prevent injury (to the shrimp and to you), you can snap off the large claws if your shrimp are so equipped (note the claws on the counter in the photo above). If you end up with a big pile of claws, use them for chum.
The next step is to put a couple of moist/damp napkins over the Ghost Shrimp and load another 10 or 15 shrimp on top of the napkins. Repeat this step until the container is full. At that point, put wet napkins on top and fold over the ends of the napkins that are hanging off the edges of the container.
Finally, put the top on, and the shrimp go right into the fridge between the Yellowtail Reisling, cheddar cheese, and the cat food.
I’ve been told that shrimp packed in wet newspaper will keep for “weeks” in the refrigerator. I don’t know about that, but I’ve kept them alive for two nights with 100% survival. Before I knew better, I tried keeping 100 shrimp in a bucket overnight…and the next day, they were all dead from re-breathing ammonia and other waste products.
Remember, the limit on Ghost Shrimp is 50 per person in California. And if you are cited for having too many, the fine is HUNDREDS of dollars.
When you head out to fish, just grab your container and put it in a cooler if you have one. Once you’re at your fishing spot or aboard your boat, you can put them in a bucket or bait tank. If you’re in a small boat, one of those floating minnow buckets works just fine, although those are not ideal for shore fishing. The sand fleas that inhabit most bays will swim into a minnow bucket, and chew on your bait. You’d be better off to keep your bucket up on shore rather than bobbing around in the water.
Another tip; Ghost Shrimp will die sooner if they get tired of swimming around. If they’re slopping around in a bucket or jug for an hour while you drive home or to the beach, you’ll lose more of them. You can put some sand in the bucket for them to grab on to for the ride home, and leave them in the plastic container for the drive to the beach. They’ll stay alive longer, which means they’ll stay on the hook better.