Anyone who has heard the Red Clay Ramblers tune “King Mackerel and the Blues are Running” knows that part of the excitement of fishing is the word-of-mouth
communication about what fish are biting and where. The local filling station and tackle shop are where you stop for intelligence reports after you’ve heard the first whisper of a run. For those of us who don’t always catch our own dinner, the word-of-mouth network is still important, as it was this past week when my husband and I had house guests from the Triangle and wanted to feed them as much fresh seafood as possible. Their seafood of choice − shrimp. Keep in mind that our usual sources of supply, Avon’s Sunrise Seafood Market, owned by Mark Martino, and Steve Bailey’s Risky Business Seafood in Hatteras Village, were both closed for the season. Our neighborhood Buxton Seafood was also closed, but with a telephone number provided by friend Kevin McCabe, I was able to call and ask for help. Of course, the owners met me at the store and dug into the freezer for some frozen shrimp to tide us over.
At that point I felt I was set. Then the word came that green tails were available.
That is the siren call for shrimp lovers, and it’s as seductive as Bland Simpson’s King Mackerel song is for fishermen. Of course, a friend knew a former seafood store owner who would deliver the shrimp fresh off the boat to his house. How’s that for service? Then the tom-toms began to beat, and soon my friend was besieged with calls for some of the bounty. Arrangements were made for payment, pick-up locations and times. And then, the boat didn’t come in. The weather turned just enough to discourage docking and arrangements were revised. The plans for the big shrimp boil were postponed one day. A contingency menu which included a big pot of chili was devised. Then the call came from friend McCabe and so did a quantity of shrimp. I was prepared to head and boil the shrimp and had newspapers spread across the kitchen island when I was summoned to pick up my share of shrimp that he had already headed. Is that a friend? It had nothing to do with the fact that this was now my birthday. That’s just what friends on Hatteras Island do for each other. But it sure made a great birthday present and sped up the shrimp boil for arriving guests.
Shrimp is vital for the North Carolina Coastal economy, and we’re blessed with three varieties: pinks, that are harvested in the spring roughly between April and June; browns, that come between July and November; and the highly prized green tails that are most abundant in the fall. So what’s so special about green tails, also known as white shrimp? They are plumper and sweeter according to those who know, and after the experience I’ve just described that includes my husband, myself and our guests.
And they really have lovely green tails!