I’m sure that many of you have heard of the “Caveman diet”, a Paleolithic diet which involves eating as a Caveman would. Well, many of these people must have forgotten that Cavemen didn’t only eat an all-natural diet, but they also caught their own food too. What better way to bring this concept to the busy body metropolitans of Taipei than to create places where you have to fish for your own food! The concept sounded interesting, so I decided to have a go at shrimp fishing myself. Even though I knew that dinner wasn’t guaranteed……
Shrimp fishing is considered a sport here in Taiwan and started outdoors in Southern Taiwan, but it quickly started to shift indoors to satisfy the recreational needs of city dwellers in the north. Therefore, this makes it a great recreational activity for families and friends all year round.
Inside one of the shrimp fishing warehouses, you’ll find long time friends catching up over a few beers, old men chewing betel nut (a legal stimulant in Taiwan) and professionals teaching the amateurs on how to hook bait. All this and more around the rectangular, concrete-walled pools with Taiwan’s greatest hits playing in the background is an all-in-one cultural experience that’s hard to find elsewhere in Taiwan.
Most of these shrimp fishing warehouses are closely located next to the famous National Palace Museum in the Shillin District. Simply take a 20 minute bus ride from Shillin station and you’ll start seeing a road lined up with shrimp fishing warehouses. Once you arrive at your chosen joint, you’ll have to go to the counter and let them know how many hours you want to fish for. (At the time of writing, 1 hour is 300 Taiwanese dollars and the price increases in increments of 50 Taiwanese dollars for every 30 minutes thereafter. Whether you think that is value for money depends entirely on how many shrimps you’re able to catch!
After receiving your fishing rods with 2 hooks, you’ll also be given a tray of shrimp bait which includes dried baby shrimps and a piece of chicken kidney. You’ll also be given a tidy blade to cut the bait with. Find a place to sit at and if you’re completely new to shrimp fishing, you can always ask for the staff to help adjust your fishing rod for you to enable you to maximise your catches. Unfortunately, shrimps don’t swim on the surface of the water so having your rod adjusted to the right specifications can ensure that the shrimps are more easily caught. You’ll then have to select your bait of chicken kidney or shrimp and attach it to both of your hooks.
Start! Making sure that you’re baits are firmly attached to their hooks, throw in your rod and start waiting…..Although I have had some occasions where I managed to catch my first shrimp within the first 5 minutes, the majority of people will have to wait around 10 to 20 minutes to have their first catch! It’s time to sit back, relax and learn how to be patient. Patience is a virtue after all.
Once you’ve finally felt a tug on your rod, slowly drag the rod from left to right to make sure that the hook is attached to the shrimp. If you don’t, you’ll lose it for good. Once you feel like the tugs from the shrimp are getting stronger, pull your rod up and you’ll finally pull in your first catch! Place your shrimp in the nets provided and repeat this process for the remaining time and hopefully you’ll have caught a reasonable number to be called ‘dinner’. For those who only managed to catch a few, there are the usual fried rice dishes which can be ordered from the menu.
After pulling in your catches for the day, hand the rods back to the counter and make your way to the sinks. Here is where you’ll personally declaw, clean and skewer the shrimps. This isn’t for the faint-hearted. Use the scissors provided to declaw the shrimps, give them a quick scrub and then skewer provided. You then season your catches with salt and grill until they are hot and thoroughly cooked. Switch off the flames and head to one of the seats to enjoy your hard day of work with some beer and laughs with your companions.
Shrimp fishing is a relaxed way of getting rid of all your stress and soaking in the Taiwanese culture. So whenever you’re lost for things to do, head over to one of the conveniently located shrimp fishing warehouses and try your hand at catching dinner for the day.