Alaska Dispatches: Shrimping From A Kayak | Adventure Kayak Magazine | Rapid Media
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Nancy Pfieffer is prepared to catch shrimp in Southeast Alaska Photo: Fredrik Norrsell

Adventurers Nancy Pfieffer and Fredrik Norrsell share the exciting process of harvesting shrimp from a kayak in Southeast Alaska

“We’ve got shrimp!” I hollered across the water.

“Yeah!” called Fredrik. “How many?”

“One, two, three, four,” I counted the wildly bouncing critters. "We've got six!"

Balanced on my deck was a cage, two feet wide, three feet long, containing a bait can stuffed with stinky fish parts, a rock to hold the whole thing down and six gorgeous spot shrimp. These delectable morsels were hauled up from the bottom of the sea, 43 fathoms below us. Almost 260 feet of line is a lot of rope to pull by hand, but we have a system. Fredrik clips the rope to his kayak and paddles away perpendicular to the load, helping me as I pull the pot, hand over hand, to the surface.

Finding good shrimp habitat, about 300 feet down, with the right amount of current and a rocky bottom on a bench or a slope had been tricky. Without a fancy GPS and a depth finder like the big boats have, we got our information from a nautical chart. 

I held up our biggest shrimp, a prize at almost six inches long, although almost half that length was head. The tails would be delicious, boiled in seawater and served with a splash of lime.

 A shrimp dinner harvested by Nancy Pfieffer and Fredrik Norrsell

Photo: Fredrik Norrsell

Last summer, when my husband and I had spent a month paddling around Prince William Sound eating whatever the land and sea provided, I had tied a flattened shrimp pot to the deck of my kayak every morning. We toted the whole rig—shrimp pot, 400 feet of line, and three buoys—for over 140 miles. We made eight empty sets, hauled up over 2,400 feet of rope, caught one starfish which had just devoured our only shrimp, lost a $100 shrimp pot, borrowed another, and paddled around for days at a time with a stinky bait can. But as we savored the few shrimp we did catch, we didn't want to give up. Instead we envisioned a lighter and more collapsible pot and a deflatable buoy.

READ MORE: Nancy Pfieffer and Fredrik Norrsell catch the first salmon of their season 

This year when we decided to spend the whole summer paddling around Southeast Alaska subsisting off of the land and sea, we began building our vision. On our back porch, we assembled two plywood frames and four pieces of old tent poles, surrounded by netting to create a collapsible shrimp pot that would fit in my rear hatch. We solved the problem of bulky buoys with a deflatable beach ball, complete with my name, address, and vessel name written on the outside, just like the big boys.

Intellectually, we understand that calorie lost for calorie gained, the equation will probably never come out positive. But like the gold miners and dreamers Alaska is full of, we are still hoping for the mother load. That one pull with a pot of gold, so heavily loaded with big, delicious shrimp that we can barely heave it aboard.

Breaded rockfish

Dip rockfish in bread crumbs, cornmeal, salt, dill and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper, and fry. 

Rockfish ceviche

Cut rockfish into tiny chunks, add a 1/2 cup of lime juice per one pound of fish. Let sit 10 to 20 minutes until meat becomes opaque. Add onion, chives, cilantro, and finely chopped beach lovage. Eat with watermelon berry leaves.

Shrimp

Catch 'em

Boil them briefly in sea water

Eat with lime juice

 

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