HARLINGEN — The phrase “jumbo shrimp” doesn’t really do it justice.
The captain and owner of a Brownsville shrimp boat is showing off the biggest Asian tiger shrimp he’s ever seen, measuring 12.5 inches, which is probably within an inch or two of the maximum size of the species.
Capt. Seth Sanders was trawling for white shrimp just west of the Atchafalaya Channel off the coast of Louisiana recently when his net brought up the monster female Asian tiger.
“Our native shrimp, as far as length, they get up to 8, 10 inches at the most,” said Tony Reisinger, Texas Sea Grant’s Cameron County Coastal and Marine Resources agent who posted the crustacean’s photo on the agency’s Facebook page.
“A former specialist in aquaculture saw one in Indonesia and he measured it and it was 13.77 inches,” he said.
Asian tiger shrimp are more common in the frozen fish department at local supermarkets than they are in the Gulf of Mexico. How they found their way to the gulf has spawned several theories, but they do seem to be expanding their range.
“He caught a dozen of them last trip,” Reisinger said of Sanders. “He was off Louisiana fishing for white shrimp in real shallow water, around three fathoms (18 feet). He said he doesn’t have much water under the bottom of his boat. But he said during storms they seem to flow out of the marshes there in Louisiana, which is interesting. I wonder if they’re reproducing there or not.”
Possibly the big Asian tigers move out to the gulf to feed when the inshore waters are stirred up by heavy rains, and those shrimp are big enough to take small crabs or other shrimp disturbed by the upheaval.
“They’re really voracious animals,” Reisinger said. “They eat other shrimp, they’re cannibalistic, as all shrimp are.”
Reisinger said the Asian tiger shrimp may have been introduced to the gulf in ballast water dropped by freighters, or possibly they are escapees from a fish farming operation.
“I think in 2005 there were some pretty bad storms that came through the Caribbean and they were farming them down there,” he said. “I don’t know what island it was, but that could have let them loose, too.”
Reisinger may not be entirely sure how they arrived, but he knows what to with them now.
“You peel it, leave the tail on like you usually do, then you split it open and lay in some cream cheese and jalapeno and then wrap it with bacon and put it on the grill,” he said. “It doesn’t take too long.
“It’s a great recipe,” he added. “You could cook anything this way and it tastes good.”
Shrimp by the numbers
4 pounds – the amount of shrimp Americans eat per capita per year
1.5 billion pounds – the amount of shrimp imported in 2017
216.8 million pounds – Gulf region total shrimp landings
75.4 million pounds – Shrimp landings in Texas
Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in America
You should know
>> Shrimp is one of the best food sources of iodine, an important mineral many people are deficient. Iodine is required for proper thyroid function and brain health.
>> Shrimp is a good source of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.
>> Shrimp is very nutritious, fairly low in calories and provides a high amount of protein, vitamins and minerals.
>> Many people are allergic to shellfish such as shrimp. It is among the top 8 food allergies in the United States along with fish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk and soy.
This story has been updated to correct the headline.