We are a costal community. In love with our shrimp and the shrimp boats that quietly grace our salty waters. We know where to dine on the best fried shrimp, where to buy it fresh. There is a season for shrimping. We know when it starts and when it ends. We attend the spring “Blessing of the Fleet” yearly. And during shrimping season, these venerable ladies define our coastline.
It is hugely gratifying to live near the sea and to witness daily the evidence of marsh life, seen and unseen. Within our 100 miles of coastline there is a huge expanse of rich tidal estuaries, creeks and rivers. These waters can support staggering quantities of white and brown shrimp, the life cycle lasting about a year. Shrimp spawn in deep offshore waters, each female laying nearly a million eggs which sink to the ocean floor. Upon hatching the larvae float to the surface and ocean currents carry them to into the marshes and estuaries. If they survive to this point, they grow old enough to reproduce and begin moving back out to sea to spawn.
Brown shrimp spawn in the fall, spend winter in the estuaries, reach adulthood by June and are caught by shrimpers as they move out to the spawning grounds in July and August. White shrimp spawn in the spring and can reach commercial size by September. They are harvested mainly in the fall and spring.
If we hope to see the shrimp boats collectively docked, we trek up the road to Darien. Here the marsh grasses part as if from the hand of Moses, giving permission for the Altamaha River to slide its way through. With names like Mayflower, Smokin’ Joe and Gravedigger, we scout for survivors. For shrimping is hard. It’s tenuous. A gritty existence in a changing world. But the tradition of handing down from generation to generation is a proud one. And with the “Georgia white” shrimp considered by some to be the best in the world, our shrimpers continue to fulfill a significant role in the shoreline economy of our state.
And if not at the docks, try to catch these celebrities of the Georgia coast just before sunrise in the St Simons Sound, close to the beach, near the pier. A ghostly silhouette gliding into the silver gray landscape of morning. Or near sunset. When the sky sinks golden and sweet peach into the brine, you might witness the etching of masts and nets against the disappearing day.
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