You can try listing the saltwater sport fish that don’t eat shrimp, but you won’t get very far. The fact is, these tasty crustaceans offer anglers much more than a shrimp cocktail appetizer: They’re a can’t-miss bait that will reliably catch fish during any season.
The time of the year does affect the size and availability of shrimp, but this handful of options should cover most of your rigging needs.
Under the Horn
Shrimp have a hard, serrated protrusion that protects their heads. This creates a solid hooking point, but make sure to use light, wire hooks and keep the point shallow. Avoid hitting the dark spot (its brain) or you’ll kill the shrimp. It’s not a lost cause if this happens, but your bait will lack the motion that helps attract predators. This is a good rigging option for fishing under a cork or making short pitches to targeted structures like a pier or bridge piling, because the horn-hooking rig typically pulls free on long, snappy casts.
Through the Tail
For stealth and easy casting, measure your hook spacing so the eye fits right below the tail fins, then insert the point through the nearest tail joint, bottom-to-top. For longer casts and faster descent in deeper spots, add a split shot or replace the hook with a lead head jig–about 1/8- to 1/4-ounce, depending on depth. Slowly crawling a tail-hooked shrimp on a jig is a deadly winter tactic.
When pinfish, puffers, and other bait stealers ravage your shrimp, pinch off the tail and thread the bait onto a long shank hook. This won’t completely deter the thieves, but it’ll leave your bait intact long enough for a desired species to find it.
Sweetening jigs with fingernail-sized chunks of shrimp was one of the first saltwater tricks I learned. This strategy also works with large sabiki rigs when you’re hunting big blue runners for kingfish, sailfish, and other offshore targets. If you want to get even more elaborate, a multi-dropper chicken rig tipped with shrimp should yield an array of reef species.