Figuring your ‘net’ worth (at shrimping)

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By Jack Sparacino
I’ve been fishing for a long time.  Lakes, rivers, creeks, oceans. Very shallow (1 foot) to very deep (600 feet).  Ultra light tackle to the really heavy stuff.  I’ve been sunburned, seasick, rained on, beaten up by tuna, badly tangled with other people’s lines, even bitten.  I’ve also had a ball, caught lots of fish and enjoyed some of the nicest weather and people in my life.
That’s fishing. Now we come to shrimping, a more recent activity for me.  Since I love seafood and just being around the water, learning to throw a cast net for shrimp seemed like a wonderful new hobby when we moved here.  I’d seen lots of people do it, including up North, and some of them were kids and darned good at it.  With kids who really know how to throw a net, it’s like watching them skateboard.  They look great — graceful and athletic, but mostly natural.  Their fluid, balanced movements seem like they were born to do it.  How hard could it be to learn to throw that net or to skateboard?  (Although hearing little kids speak beautiful French in France doesn’t mean it’s at all easy to pick up as an adult, I got that part.)
So I bought a net, took a couple of lessons, found a good spot with lots of shrimp around, and cast away.  Pretty soon I stopped laughing at a friend who said she only caught one at a time and not that often.  Hey, I wondered, where’s my one?  And how come the net doesn’t open up in a nice circle?  Well, I just need more practice.
And practice I did.  Tried variations on my technique, studied my mistakes, then finally got the net to open just right. Once here, once there, and lo and behold, I hit paydirt! What a thrill seeing that shiny little grey mass kicking at the edge of the net, kneeling down for a closer look and discovering I had caught my first shrimp.  Yahoo!  Now all I had to do was repeat the process.
Sadly, I have failed to get consistent with my cast netting ever since.  Some days, especially on the first dozen throws, it seems fluid and natural and the shrimp go from net to pail.  Then I get tired and even cranky at myself, though the occasional fish that gets caught in my net is always a source of enjoyment.  One day, I caught several dozen small bait fish and put them aside as I was being watched by a beautiful adult blue heron.  He watched me intently, pondering my every move.  He looked hungry, so I tried an experiment, wondering just how many little fish a hungry bird like that might eat at one sitting.  One by one he practically inhaled my little fish.  He reminded me of a kid eating potato chips and before he was done he had finished off 30 fish.
So I know how to catch fish and harvest clams and crabs, though am still learning the elusive art of throwing my cast net just right.  But guess what.  It’s one of the things I like best that I do worst.  Maybe it’s because of the almost zen-like feeling you get when you get into a good rhythm, before my back hurts or I’m just too tired.
But it’s a good thing I never had to earn my keep catching shrimp with that net.  A dinner for us here and there and that’s about it, along with the exercise and fresh air.  So what is my “net” worth exactly?  Well, net net as my father used to say, it’s all good.  On an average day, I get maybe $5 worth of shrimp, $10 worth of exercise, and $50 worth of humility.
Not a bad deal at all.