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Underwater citizens of the Gulf Coast

Seafood lovers are used to seeing shrimp, crab, fish and oysters on their dinner plates, but to see them alive in their own habitat is something else altogether. Today I encountered many of these creatures up-close with an Alabama Gulf Coast company called Sailaway Charters.

I joined Sailaway’s owner Capt. Skip, as well as a handful of other visitors, on a nature cruise of the bays and bayous near Orange Beach, Alabama. During our hour-and-a-half cruise, Capt. Skip demonstrated many of the techniques used by commercial fisherman to harvest shrimp, crab, oysters and other fish in the area. We began by trawling for shrimp with a net cast behind our pontoon boat. After a few minutes, Capt. Skip hoisted the net on board, and emptied out its contents to show us all of the different creatures that had come up.

By my count, we saw at least 16 types of fish, mollusks, shrimp and other creatures. For each one, the captain would hold up a specimen and point out its distinguishing characteristics, such as the markings on the underside of a blue crab that indicate its sex. Then, he would toss all of the ‘by-catch’ back out into the gulf, where dozesn of gulls and a pair of dolphins followed behind our boat to catch an easy meal.

The excursion also included looks at crab traps and oyster harvesting. I left with a deeper appreciation of the beauty of these sea animals, as well as the hard work that commercial fishermen go through to bring them to our tables.


A tiny white shrimp



Capt. Skip and a blue crab


A pair of stingrays got caught up in the shirmp net.


Freshly pulled from the Gulf, oysters are unattractive creatures.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.