Local shrimpers stay in the bays catching live bait

Posted at 11:24 AM, Jul 18, 2022

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Local shrimpers spend their morning in the bays catching shrimp for live bait not for people to eat.

“Since Gulf King is gone. Everything started going downhill,” said one local shrimp boat captain.

Gulf King Seafood, once called Aransas Pass its home with the largest fleet of Gulf Coast shrimp boats in the United States. Over 20 years ago, Gulf King moved locations. Soon after local shrimpers followed trying to find more opportunities.

Now the only place selling gulf shrimp in Aransas Pass is Erikson and Jensen Seafood. Right now, their fleet is stationed in Florida. Catching gulf shrimp from Florida to Texas.

The owner Grant Erikson tells KRIS 6 News he’s expecting Texas will bring in 50 million pounds or more of gulf shrimp.

If that’s the case, why are shrimpers in the Coastal Bend seeing less profit? For one, they’re staying nearshore in the bays like Captain Steve Pham in Aransas Pass.

“So far we keep up with whatever we’re catching in the Bay Area,” said Pham.

Pham has worked in the shrimping business for 25 years. Every morning he drives his boat out, trying to catch what he can.

Pham said he can't take his boat out into the Gulf because it’s not meant to go offshore so he works with what he’s got.

“We have some bigger shrimp for eating. It’s too big for bait. It’s enough to sell for one day,” he said.

Pham is mostly in the business of selling live bait along with several other bait stands and while he’s catching over 100 pounds every day. It’s still not enough to make a profit.

“Inflation going up, I go up on the bait. Just to offset the cost,” said Pham.

A lack of rain has also added pressure to the shrimping business. Shrimp are going to deeper waters where it’s usually less salty. This is a problem for our local shrimpers in the bays who say they’re not catching as much as they have been hoping for.