Father Teaches Kids (and You) Secrets to Fishing Puget Sound

Many of us know and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest. From the mountains to the desert to the lakes and beaches, we see it daily. But under the depths of the area’s waters we have an abundance of sea life that provides adventure, memories and healthy meals.

I have fished the waters of the Northwest for more than 30 years. From the early days mooching blackmouth (Chinook salmon that haven’t made their way to the ocean) and pulling crab pots from Penn Cove to the modern day adventures of offshore halibut and albacore tuna fishing, I’ve been able to catch and enjoy many of our species.

And now I get to help my two daughters make their own memories. Each of them has a different favorite fish. My 6-year-old salivates at the mere mention of the word salmon. But springtime brings out my oldest daughter’s favorite food as we seek out the bountiful Puget Sound spot prawn.

Pulling in the Best Seafood

The spot prawn is arguably one of the best food that comes out of Puget Sound. As an idea of what it competes with, within a stone’s throw of Seattle, we can catch four types of salmon, ling cod, Dungeness and rock crab, squid and several varieties of shrimp among other shellfish opportunities.

The seasons to harvest spot prawns have continued to shrink as we become more aware of conservation of the natural resources. This results in Marine Area 10 having only a four or six hour season depending on the specific location. Hundreds of boats flood into Elliott Bay, eagerly anticipating the 7 a.m. start to the sprint to capture our limits of 80 spot prawns each.

The gear is specialized. A heavy trap is attached to 400 feet of weighted line that terminates with a yellow buoy to symbolize working shrimp gear. We catch shrimp anywhere from 225-400 feet of water and look for structure like small cliffs where they pile up.

My secret location gets surrounded by 40 other boats all within a short swim of the Alki Beach Bathhouse. As my daughters start to show signs of life from their nap, we start to pull the first pot. We cheat by using an electric puller, but many peoples still pull their gear by hand. Soon the first pot comes into view and its full of delicious spot prawns.

Keeping the Freezer Stocked

Now the second part of the work begins. It’s time to clean them. This means separating the head portion from the tail portion. Many folks retain the heads to make amazing seafood stocks or even keep them whole to grill.

My wife has honed her skill and my oldest daughter has shown to be a star pupil at separating the parts and even removing the “vein” (which is a code word for the shrimp’s digestive system) this way, instead of having to cut them open later. We even put together a video to show you how it’s done.

We are spoiled in the Northwest. We can harvest almost all of our own food from the sea or the mountains and keep our freezers well stocked throughout the year. And the spot prawn is the perfect morsel. Whether it’s grilled, sautéed, steamed or simply raw out of the trap with a drop of soy and wasabi, the shrimp is a versatile and delicious ingredient. And the fun of catching them is immeasurable.

Fishing is an integral part of the history of our region and it is an integral part of my family’s history. I have been fortunate to experience the best the region has to offer and I’m looking forward to many more memories along the way.

Spot Prawn Resources

Eric Berto

Eric Berto is a communications and public relations professional that finds his happy place anywhere in the open water. He is passionate about experiencing and protecting the natural resources that surround us in the Pacific Northwest. Eric loves to help his family make the same memories he was fortunate enough to make growing up on the water or in the mountains. He can be reached at ericberto@gmail.com.



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