That’s usually the correct answer when you’re traveling. As in, “Would you like to eat a chicken liver?”
“Would you like to hand feed some elk in the morning?”
“Can I show you where the students made their protest signs during the Velvet Revolution last year?”
So, when my new Cajun friend invited me to go shrimp fishing with him in the Gulf of Mexico, I moved heaven and earth in my schedule so I could answer him with those two wonderful words.
What I knew about shrimp fishing I had learned from watching Forrest Gump. It involved rusty old boats, their nets aloft like fairy’s wings as they sailed into the sunset. That’s all I really knew. And that was enough.
I climbed aboard a little after 5 pm. It’s a nocturnal thing. We motored south until the land disappeared. At six the season started and we dropped our nets.
It’s a simple process, which isn’t to say that it’s easy. You drop your nets and drive around for an hour or so, hoping there are little shrimps in the water below you. And when you pull the nets up, you find out if there were.
Sure enough, our nets had shrimp in them. They also had fish, crabs, eels, rays, squid, sharks, and precisely one tire.
I quickly became the guy who threw stuff back. While the people who earned their living on the water focused on the shrimp, I paid attention to everything else and tried to get it back in the water. I’m sorry to say that if I had to make my living as a shrimp fisherman, I might starve.
After the second time we raised the nets, the sun had settled below the horizon. The water and the sky merged into an inky blackness broken only by the stars above and the lights on schools of shrimp boats as they swept the waters with their nets.
There’s no such thing as a free ride. As I set my cameras down in the darkness, I was pressed into service sorting shrimp. It’s pretty straightforward. As the catch is spread out on the sorting table, you keep the shrimp and throw everything else back. It turned into a little game I called “Shrimp, shrimp, NOT a shrimp.”
The next time someone invites you to play Duck, Duck, Goose or Duck, Duck, Grey Duck, I suggest you go all nautical on them and suggest Shrimp, Shrimp, NOT a Shrimp. Just for fun.
The Gulf was calm that night, so my visions of the Deadliest Catch did not play out, but I can see the danger in it. You shrimp through the night ‘til sunrise. Lack of sleep makes for bad judgment. Our boat didn’t have rails on it, so stumble on a deck line, or step on a poorly placed squid, and you could find yourself bobbing out in that black water.
We brought in about 1,200 pounds of shrimp that night. At the end, I was a little smarter, a lot tired, and quite a bit stinky. But if someone asked me to go again, I know what I’d say.