Extreme shrimping

Thus endeth another shrimping season on Hood Canal. And what a season it was. Shrimpers had wind, rain, hail, sun, plenty of big, juicy spot shrimp, and a bonus day courtesy of the demigods at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

And the extreme shrimper award of the year goes to… Jerome Tramill of Vaughn, who lives by the creed, “The heck with fingers … save the pots.”

Unlike the opening day of shrimping, yesterday, the last day of the spot shrimp season, was mild and gorgeous. This according to editor David Nelson, who took the day off to go shrimping (he works Saturday). David got his limit and has promised us a free lunch tomorrow – yes there is such a thing. Please be gumbo, please be gumbo.

The opening day of shrimping season was, weather-wise, a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Tramill and his wife Alma are seasoned shrimpers not apt to let a little wind and rain stop them. But that first Saturday in May was, in Tramill’s words, “a pretty tough day on the water. The wind kicked up. We decided to pull up and get the heck out of there.”

Tramill started the motor on his electric pot puller, and the machinery cranked against the drift and the tide. The boat was pitching around, and Tramill found himself off balance. Then “in the blink of an eye” he found his hand tangled in the line, the puller grinding on. He shut the motor down and had to cut the line to free his mangled fingers. From the angle of his little finger, he was pretty sure it was broken. “It turned out to be worse than broken,” said Tramill, who ended up losing half of his pinkie in the accident.

His other digits weren’t in such good shape either. Blood gushed from his hand, dripping on the deck. Holding the severed line with his uninjured left hand, he wrapped the right with a T-shirt. Then he considered the pot.

It wasn’t just about the shrimp, but the darn thing cost a pretty penny. “I decided, rather than throw 100 bucks away, I’d pull it in. That was a killer,” Tramill said.

I personally can attest how tough it is to pull pots by hand, even with two good hands. My experience includes all of 15 minutes, helping haul pots while on assignment for the story, “Shrimp Abundant on Hood Canal This Year.” I had to lean my whole body into each tug, and even wearing gloves, my palms and fingers stung when I and my kind host, the owner of the gear, wrestled the pot over the side of the boat.

Tramill tugged and hauled and grunted with the effort for what seemed like an eternity, his wife — by his description — keeping up an increasingly shrill volley of expletives. When at last he hoisted the pot into the boat, it had all of about 15 shrimp inside. Tramill speculates most of the little buggers probably escaped because his injury prevented him from hauling the pot in smoothly.

He eyed the line to the second pot, but pain and his wife’s common sense prevailed. With Alma at the wheel, they headed against the wind, toward shore. Tramill credits his wife with navigating the boat through some of the nastiest chop he’s ever seen. It took them about an hour to reach the boat launch at Twanoh State Park, where they were met by EMTs from Mason County Fire District, station 2.

“When they pulled into the dock, there was a good amount of blood in the entire boat,” said firefighter EMT Brian Johnson, who noted the extreme weather. “It was rough out there. It was gangbusters,” he said.

Tramill, on the other hand, was remarkably calm. “He was in really good spirits and more concerned about his shrimp than anything else,” Johnson said.

A buddy showed up to take care of Tramill’s boat and equipment. According to Johnson, Tramill, as he was being loaded into the ambulance, exhorted the buddy to “get those things on ice.”

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