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Get Outta Town

Get Outta Town

Lynn Grisard Fullman

Shrimping in the Gulf of Mexico

The sun still is burning through morning clouds as Martha and Bill Rawson ready their vessel to take a gaggle of tourists shrimping into the back bay off Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

They call this their retirement but it seems a far cry from her years spent with elementary age children and his showing up for work with the Corps of Engineers. These days, the duo offer charter shrimping trips aboard a craft that for some 25 years was a working boat with a small crew.

This day, like most others, a cluster of dolphins, sensing the roar of the diesel engine, rally to welcome interlopers and to hope for some treats tossed by benevolent shrimpers.

The retired couple in 1990 bought the retired red and white boat which they use for dragging, shrimping and making new friends.

As her husband navigates, Mrs. Rawson, with a gentle voice and obvious patience born of her years in education, explains the shrimping process.

"When he pulls the net in," she explains, "we never know what we’ll find—probably a bunch of trash fish, hopefully shrimp, probably some crab and if we’re lucky some flounder."

Of all their catches, three stand out, she says as the motor hums and the net disappears beneath the water.

"We once found a wallet, a watch still working and a huge bail of burlap taped tightly together."

They returned the wallet to its owner, kept the watch and tossed back the mysterious burlap.

"It looked like it could have had a body in it," she confesses as visitors’ eyes widen.

But, for now, it’s time for business. During a typical four hour run, the net is let out and brought in four times.

Once the net is in, the work begins, even for visitors, should they choose to become deck hands.

Rawson does the maneuvering and tugging, then guests get the chance to sort through the findings which are tossed out on a wood surface at the rear of the boat.

The trash fish are chucked, and the shrimp and crab are set aside.

Once the keepers are identified, it’s time to pinch the heads off still wiggling shrimp. It’s a task that should be done quickly with little time to consider that shrimp insides are gooshing under your finger nails.

When the work is complete, the beheaded shrimp and any fish worth keeping are hurried into zip lock bags filled loosely with ice. After the trips, these are given to guests.

About the time the sun begins to climb high into the sky, the boat heads back to the dock to spend the night along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

THE FACTS: The Rawsons take charters twice daily Monday through Saturday. Shrimping is closed from May until mid June. Cost is $200 for a four hour charter with six guests. For details on shrimping call (334) 981 4153. For other Gulf Shores/Orange Beach details call (334) 745 SAND.

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Copyright 1997 Deep South Syndicate


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