Do My Job: Lowcountry shrimpers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Do My Job: Lowcountry shrimpers

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) -

We all love to eat shrimp, but how many of us understand the hard work associated with catching these tiny creatures?

My day as a Lowcountry shrimper started at sunrise on the Morgan River. We left the docks of the Sea Eagle Seafood Market in Beaufort and headed out to meet the Palmetto Pride.

Craig Reaves served as our guide and gave us a lift in his oyster boat. He's been in the seafood business all of his life.

The morning was majestic - very calm - making the trip to the Palmetto Pride a short one. The shrimp boat, however, is long - 68 feet It sat beautifully on the Saint Helena Sound. The crew was finishing up a four-day trip. We went two or three miles offshore hoping to catch about 5-600 pounds of shrimp.

"We are going to go out to Hunting Island and we are going to work something called the two-mile slew - the flat, and then you'll see Hunting Island Lighthouse. So, we will basically be working offshore of the state park Hunting Island," Reaves said. 

Soon, the four-man crew rigged the nets and lines to test the water, which is an important first step.

"The process is what we call 'trailing the nets,' so we are going to tie our tail bags, we're gonna trail the nets behind the out riggers, behind the doors and basically let the rigs out. They will go about 300 feet behind the boat and they will troll the bottom for two to three hours, and we will wind the rigs back and just repeat the process. We'll pull the tail bags in, dump the shrimp out on the table, then you get to get your hands dirty sorting the shrimp," Reaves said. 

After three hours of dragging the bottom, full shrimp nets dumped our catch onto sorting tables. Too many white and brown shrimp to count!

We kept the shrimp but threw back other critters like fish, crabs, stingrays, and sand dollars. We even pulled in a baby shark! To be honest, this hands-on job freaked me out a little bit. We tossed the unwanted catches overboard and created a free buffet. Birds and dolphins followed behind to grab a quick and easy snack.

Once the crew filled the coolers to capacity, we head back to Beaufort, but the hard work didn’t slow down. Shrimpers turned into tightrope walkers, securing the nets and rigging. That was one task I could not and would not do! Seeing these guys in action proved shrimping isn't a job...it's a way of life.

"All shrimpers are passionate about what they do. They love the coastal environment; the habitat. Shrimping is an awesome way to make a living. Now, it's hard work, a lot of hours. I was told a long time ago, don't count your hours," Reaves said. 

Family members and workers greeted us on our return to the Sea Eagle Seafood Market dock - all ready to help unload the catch.

Emptying the boat took about an hour. Large blue containers were filled to the top and then hoisted onto land. The shrimp traveled up a conveyer belt to be weighed and then boxed. The fresh shrimp was quickly on its way to restaurants and businesses all across the Lowcountry.

The Reaves family built their business on seafood and hard work. I experienced that firsthand. They've been around for nearly 50 years and I expect they will be reeling in fresh catches for many more decades. 

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