St. Simons Island is the largest of four barrier islands that make up the Golden Isles of Georgia (along with the historic port city of Brunswick). It is an island steeped in history and beauty. On land, visitors are entertained with the myriad of sights, sounds and flavors that dot the island. From a round of golf at the King and Prince Golf Course to the best burger on the island at Brogen’s to stopping by ECHO Restaurant for their signature Shrimp and Grits, there’s plenty to do … or you can sit back, relax and do nothing at all as you lounge the day away.
However, when you want that rare mix of entertainment and education, there’s at least one place on the Island where you can get your fill of both simultaneously. On a recent trip to St. Simons Island, I had the pleasure of hopping aboard the vessel Lady Jane for an exciting and educational shrimping excursion. The Lady Jane is a 60-foot steel hulled shrimping boat operated by Credle’s Adventures / Lady Jane Shrimpin’ Excursions and Captain Larry Credle. Cap’n Credle was at the helm as our excited group of a dozen ladies ventured out into the Estuaries of the Golden Isles on a calm, clear morning.
As the net was lowered into the water, wildlife biologist Jeffery Benson, our nautical and ecological guide for the day, described the process of trawling and how a typical shrimp boat trawls for its catch. Unlike commercial shrimping vessels, the Lady Jane has a scientific educational permit. Everything they catch—from fish to shrimp to sea turtles—goes back into the water.
Speaking of turtles, the net is equipped with a turtle excluder device, or TED. The TED consists of a grid of bars, with an opening at either the bottom or top of the trawl net. When larger animals, such as sea turtles, find themselves in the trawl, they’re ejected through the opening when they hit the grid bars. Occasionally, sea turtles do manage to remain in the net once the trawling is complete. In such cases, the turtles are measured and photographed before being placed back in the water.
As the Lady Jane chugged through the brackish water, laughing gulls swirled overhead, their shrill sounds piercing the air as they followed closely behind the boat, waiting for the castoff of bycatch*. Oddly enough, they seem to know exactly when random fish and other marine life will be tossed overboard, and make a concerted effort to swoop down and fly off with as much as they can.
During our excursion, the Lady Jane trawled twice (for 20 minutes with each pass), scooping up a variety of creatures. One by one, Jeffery spoke about the specimens and their importance to the estuary and the ecosystem. On that day, we caught summer trout, flounder, squid, a few butterfly stingrays, a couple of Atlantic stingrays, harvest fish, brown shrimp, blue crab, a couple of horseshoe crabs, an anchovy, cannonball jellyfish, whiting, cutlassfish, whelk and sea robins.
While there were an abundance of oohs and aahs to go around, nothing was more frighteningly fascinating to me than the poor fish that had a parasite stunt double for its tongue. Mixed in with the stingrays, shrimp and crabs was a fish with a Cymothoa Exiqua in its mouth. While some may refer to this creature from the crustacean family as a tongue-eating louse, I prefer to simply call it scary.
The mouth-infesting isopod works its way into a live fish by crawling in through its gills. Once it works its way into the fish’s mouth (as a male), it sucks the blood from the tongue, causing it to atrophy and fall off. Adding insult to injury, the parasite then attaches itself to the leftover tongue stump and—voila!—instant fish tongue. It’s as creepy as it sounds … and even creepier to see. The parasites are protandric hermaphrodites—they can change from male to female once they reach adulthood. Luckily, they aren’t harmful to humans.
If you’re looking for a unique and interactive experience while on St. Simons Island, a shrimpin’ excursion aboard Lady Jane is a wonderful way to get back to nature, learn a bit about the Georgia coastline ecocystem and have a great time.
To find out moure about Lady Jane Shrimpin’ Excursions, check them out online. [Credle’s Adventures offers public shrimpin’ excursions as well as private/chartered trips. Also on the roster is a Blue Dolphin Tour, Pirate Adventure Charter, Let’s Go Crabbin’ and 4-Hour InShore Bottom Fishing, all of which you can read about on the website.]
Book reservations online for your fun shrimping excursion.
Have you been on a Lady Jane Shrimpin’ Excursion with Cap’ Credle and crew or do you plan to go? I’d love to hear about your adventure in the comments below.
Lady Jane Shrimpin’ Excursions is located at 1200-B Glynn Avenue (next to Marshside Grill), Brunswick, GA 31520/ (912) 265-5711
Disclosure: I was in attendance on a media trip hosted by The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. The views and opinions expressed in this article are my own.