Fish Tales

The Shrimping Life

By Wendy Swat Snyder / Photography By Shell Royster | June 15, 2017
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Here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, we take our seafood as seriously as our barbeque, so it’s just natural to turn the spotlight on a winning way to combine the two for a summertime feast—backyard style or dockside. Our top-quality local catch—shrimp, crab, oysters, fish of all kinds—forms the backbone of Charleston cuisine and often finds its way to chefs in distant cities. 

Since many say that some of the tastiest shrimp in the country comes from the pristine waters off our coast, celebrating the succulent crustacean seemed the right choice for this piece. In fact, Southern author Julia Reed noted in a New York Times Magazine article entitled “Bighearted Shrimp,” “…fresh shrimp from the coast of the Carolinas and northern Georgia are superior delicacies.”

Our local fleet operates from the docks on historic Shem Creek in the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant. At one time 50–60 strong, the boats now number only about a half dozen. They still line up in the harbor each spring, as they’ve done for 30 years, each waiting its turn for a fisherman’s prayer, dispensed during the Blessing of the Fleet, the official send-off for the shrimping season. This year, I was fortunate to ride out on one of the boats and for a couple of hours got a taste of the tough work making a living on a boat is. 

I contacted Capt. Wayne Magwood, a veteran fisherman whose family’s name is synonymous with the local seafood market, for his take on the industry and where it’s headed.  When I reached Magwood on his cell phone, he was aboard the Winds of Fortune, where he’s spent more than five decades trawling the coastal waters. A longtime advocate for the fishing industry, he said he was happy to talk about shrimping and would do anything he could to promote it.

WSS: How did you get started in the fishing business? 

WM: I’ve been going out on a shrimp boat since I was 4 years old and I’ve been a captain since I was 16—almost 50 years. My dad was doing it 50 years before me, and my grandfather before him. My father was one of the first shrimpers on Shem Creek.  I had choices, and I chose this life. Salt water runs through my veins. My mom named me after John Wayne—that’s some big boots to fill. The ocean’s like the prairie, we’re the cowboys of the ocean.  I’m one of the last cowboys. There’s not many young ones coming along. It’s too much work for a little bit of money; it’s a dying breed.  WSS: What keeps you motivated to continue? 

WM: It’s just in my blood. And I love the ocean—the beautiful sunrise and sunsets. I love it. I’ve done pretty well, raised four girls, put them through college. But the industry’s not like it used to be—there’s too many regulations. But I still love my lifestyle. 

WSS: Do you ever get tired of eating shrimp?

WM: No. We never get tired of eating shrimp.  Magwood says the family has dozens of recipes for shrimp, but his favorite way of grilling them up is with a little ‘cue.

For a list of Shem Creek shrimpers and their contact information visit Save Shem Creek, saveshemcreek.com/shrimp. Buy directly from a captain at the dock.

Article from Edible Charleston at http://ediblecharleston.ediblecommunities.com/shop/shrimping-life
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