“Let’s go shrimping this evening. Tides are going to be perfect,” said Ken Nutter to his long time fishing buddy last fall. Both men are experienced at shrimp baiting, and even though they fish together several times a year, they’d never been shrimping together.

“Can’t go this evening,” said Nutter’s friend. “Don’t have the bait ready. I can dump some water in the pellets tonight though, and by tomorrow night, we can cut up some old fish parts I’ve got to thaw out and we’ll mix it in. So, let’s go the day after tomorrow.”

“What are you talking about? We’re going this evening. Tides won’t be this good for another week, and what are you talking about mixing old fish parts with mushy pellets? We don’t need any of that. We can run right down to Pawleys Island Outdoors and pick up some Bait Binder and we’ll mix it up on the water,” said Nutter.

“Store bought bait mix!? No way. I thought you were a real shrimp baiter! Man, we’ve got to mix some water in with those pellets, let it get mushy for a day or two, then chop up some old fish in the meat grinder, mix those in, make some balls, then freeze them. No ready-made mix that you make on the water can compete with the real thing,” said Nutter’s friend.

After a little more arguing, Nutter convinced his friend to give it a try.

Once on the water, Nutter poured some water into a small bucket containing about half a bag of Bait Binder, mixing it with a wooden stick. Once he was the Bait Binder was moist enough, he began forming some small patties.

“I like to form mine more like a hockey puck than a ball. The balls will roll sometimes, but the flat pucks will hug the bottom and seem to stay put much better,” said Nutter.

After setting their poles and tossing out their Bait Binder pucks, Nutter’s friend was still skeptical. He was even more so after making his first throw with his cast net, and caught nothing.

But Nutter reminded him that he needed to get the net right next to each pole. 

“We put the Bait Binder right on each pole, and the current will spread it out a little, but those pucks stay pretty tight for a good while, so the shrimp are going to be right on the poles,” Nutter said.

A couple of casts later, his friend was a believer.

“We’ve got half a cooler already, and we haven’t even thrown the net but a handful of times,” he said. “And we didn’t even have to get stinky and messy to make the bait.”

Nutter just smiled and pointed at the next pole, ready to get the cooler full.

Shrimp baiting season opens tomorrow in South Carolina’s waters, and if it snuck up on you, don’t worry that you haven’t spent hours concocting the perfect balance of raw fish and clay. Just pick up some Bait Binder and make those hockey pucks.

The season runs from noon tomorrow, Sept. 9, and will stay open through noon on Nov. 8. Based on what SCDNR biologists are calling “especially high shrimp numbers” from this past spring, it looks to be a great year for shrimp baiters.

“If all the current trends hold, this could be a very good year for shrimping in South Carolina,” said Mel Bell, director of SCDNR’s Office of Fisheries Management.

While you don’t need stinky homemade bait balls for shrimping, you do need a shrimp-baiting license. They are $25 for South Carolina residents, and $500 for non-residents. Click here to get your license online.

The daily limit per boat (or set of 10 poles), is 48 quarts (heads on), or 29 quarts (heads off), and cast nets cannot have a mesh size smaller than one half inch square.

Click here for complete shrimp-baiting regulations.