Shrimp Baiting to Shrimp Festival
How a Little Idea Went a Long Way

   In the mid 1980's, a group of shrimpers from Florida came to Yemassee.  These men were using bait to catch shrimp, and they kept their main ingredient a secret from the people of Yemassee.  Now, baiting shrimp was not an unheard practice in Yemassee at that time.  It was about twenty years earlier that two gentlemen, Hud Moats and Buddy Sloman, were baiting shrimp at Riverbend.  No one knew what they used either, however, some days they would catch shrimp and on others they would pull up an empty net.  The bait the Florida shrimpers would use caught a good many shrimp.  A Yemassee man, James Polk, had a connection with the Florida shrimpers, and he found out their secret ingredient.  It was dog food.  A few of the Yemassee men took the dog food idea and with the help of a stocking were armed to catch shrimp.  When the men of Yemassee figured out that it was the protein in the dog food that caught the shrimp, the face of recreational shrimping changed forever.  If dog food caught quite a few shrimp, then how much could something higher in protein catch?  They found fishmeal.  Menhaden Fishmeal has sixty percent protein to the thirty percent protein found in dog food.  The fishmeal is then mixed with clay or mud, to anchor it, and formed into a patty to keep from rolling.  These shrimpers were now catching thousands of pounds of shrimp a week.  They were beginning to rival the amounts being caught by the Commercial Trawlers.  Imagine being able to catch that much shrimp without any laws that limited what you could catch. Cane poles were  used to mark that place where the bait had been thrown  out. At one time, Harold Harmon had three hundred poles lined down Wimbee Creek. These early baiters would carry  shotguns in their boats to protect the part of the river they had baited. The coastal rivers of the Lowcountry in the mid 1980's were turning into the deserts of the Old West during the Goldrush of the 1880's. As with the Old West, there was chaos building and laws had to be made to help protect the people and the rivers. The General assembly was going to the outlaw the baiting of shrimp all together. However, Jack Moore, Kevin P. Egan, Sr., Harold Harmon, Colin Moore, John B. "Ollie" O' Brian, Stanley Moore and Simon Jinks with the help of many other recreational shrimpers organized the South Carolina  Recreational Shrimpers Association, now known as Recreational Shrimpers of South Carolina. This group went to Columbia to fight to keep shrimp baiting. This group has been working  with the South Carolina Wildlife Department over the past decade to keep shrimp baiting available for the recreational shrimper. The regulations on shrimp baiting have evolved from limits on catch per person to licensing people and limits on catch per boat. These regulations have begun to mirror those of Recreational Sport Fishing. In 1993, the members of the Yemassee community asked then Mayor Jack Moore if Yemassee could have  a festival like other communities in our area. With the Yemassee community being a key figure in the evolution of  shrimp baiting  and its members refining it  to become what it is today, it was only fitting that Yemassee have a Shrimp Festival. Yemassee's Shrimp Festival  is evolving each year as its shrimp baiting has. With both endeavors, Yemassee's community has found new ways of refining good ideas. If there is one thing that Yemassee knows about, it's shrimp.

Melissa Moore