James Murray tells a story for a small crowd at the ORL Salmon Arm branch on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Shrimp: a favourite of fish and columnists

By James Murray, Observer contributor

So you know how sometimes you have those nights where it’s two o’clock in the morning, you are asleep and you hear a noise, or you think you heard a noise, or you dreamt you heard a noise, or something in a dream wakes you upset. Anyways, you are suddenly wide awake and you can’t seem to get back to sleep. That’s what happened to me last week, so after a while I got up and turned on the television. Nothing on the Space channel, nothing worth watching on TCM. I found myself aimlessly flicking through the channel and came upon a program on the one of the food channels, where a guy was cooking up shrimp. I love shrimp.

I didn’t know there were so many different types of shrimp or prawns as he kept referring to them – Maine shrimp, brown shrimp, rock shrimp and fresh water shrimp, not to mention banana prawns and the ever popular giant tiger prawn. Actually shrimp and prawns are different creatures, although they do have a lot in common. Both are crustaceans, they both have 10 legs, both can be found in salt and fresh waters and both live on or near the floor of whatever body of water they inhabit. Prawns have claws on three of their five pairs of legs while shrimp only have claws on two of their five pairs of legs. Their gills and body shape are different too. However, as far as cooking them, they are virtually identical and interchangeable.

Trout like to eat shrimp too. Also, fish in lakes where there are healthy shrimp populations tend to be fairly plump for their length, and, if you like to eat some of the fish you catch, you will notice that fish which have been feeding on shrimp seem to taste better. Shrimp are a calorie rich and preferred food source for trout. This is especially true in early spring and late fall. Trout are often dependent on shrimp for their calorie intake in the spring, prior to chironomid hatches coming off, and in the fall, when most insect hatches are all but over.

Freshwater shrimp or scuds, as they are sometimes referred to, can range considerably in size and colour according to the nutrient levels and chemical composition of the water in which they live. Shrimp require high levels of calcium to form the hard plastic like shell along their back. Generally, productive lakes are also calcium rich waters and consequently tend to support large numbers of shrimp as well as other healthy insect populations. Shrimp seldom venture far from the shelter of the sub-aquatic flora growing on the shoals and along the drop-off of many of our interior lakes. They can live in waters that are less than a foot deep to water that is up to twenty five feet deep, as long as there are plants or debris to provide shelter.

Gammarus shrimp are the most common species of shrimp in BC lakes and are the most commonly imitated by fly tyers. There are literally hundreds of different shrimp patterns tied with a multitude of materials on hook sizes ranging from #8’s to as small as #16’s and #18’s. Many shrimp patterns are lake specific. My favourite pattern is a pale olive Pregnant Shrimp.

Which brings me to the Skukomish Sunrise, a shrimp imitation steelhead fly pattern originally tied by Seattle angler George McLeod back in 1938 who was inspired by the bright colours of sunrise of the Skykomish River in Washington. I have a whole whack of Skykomish Sunrise patterns in my steelhead fly box, although I do have to admit that I’ve never actual caught a steelhead on one of them. Not that it isn’t a tried and true pattern that a lot of anglers swear by, it’s just that I have other patterns that I’ve had success with and I’m one of those anglers that tends to use what has worked in the past. Now having said that, I recently read somewhere that carp like to eat freshwater shrimp and crayfish. So I think I’m going to transfer those Skykomish patterns into my carp fly box. Who knows, I just might have a bit more success. In the meantime, I’m also going to head over to the seafood counter at the one grocery store in town that sells fresh seafood and see if they have any giant tiger prawns. Ah yes, tiger prawns fried with garlic, ginger, lime juice and parsley in butter, served with linguine in a white wine cream sauce.

Food that rich will probably keep me up at night.

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