A trail of pink and purple stains runs along the floor of the Water’s Edge Tackle Shop in Clarkston. The handle on the front door is stained, as are the telephone and other frequently used items.
The colorful clues lead to Stu Waters, the self-proclaimed shrimp king of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and beyond, who’s been curing and dying shrimp with a secret blend of scents and color.
“I’ve been offered a lot of money for my procedure and recipe, which is in my head and a safe-deposit box in Lewiston,” he said.
Many steelhead anglers swear by his products, which include Red Hots, Hot Pinks, Hot Orange, Purple and Original Pink.
Waters also is working on a new line of dyed shrimp that combines the Red Hot color with ingredients that reflect ultraviolet light.
He even has a line of shrimp for anglers who want to skip out on work. He calls it his Hookey Shrimp. It is cured and scented, but not dyed.
“The Red Hots and Purple, if you don’t have gloves on, they can leave some stains,” he said. “Some guys call the boss and say ‘I’m sick’ (and then go fishing). If they come in the next day with purple or pink fingers, they might be in trouble.”
Waters revealed three of his seven ingredients. They are garlic, sea salt and water from the Snake River. The rest of the ingredients are as closely guarded as Colonel Sanders’ secret blend of herbs and spices.
Waters said he has sold 1,100 pounds of shrimp so far during the epic 2009 steelhead run. He figures before it’s over he will have sold 4,000 to 5,000 pounds.
He also has a brined shrimp, which can be refrigerated for up to a year.
Most of his customers are bobber fishermen. But the bait is also popular with anglers who pull plugs.
Free with advice to customers, Waters said the key to bobber fishing is using a second hook and placing the weight at the bottom of the leader near the bait.
Often, he said, anglers put weight right under the bobber. That works well if the fish take the bait hard. But if they just mouth the bait or come up from below the bait, the line will become slack between the hook and the bobber, and the bobber won’t move.
When the weight is at the bottom (just above the bait) and the fish mouth the bait, the slack causes the bobber to tip over.
“Your bobber is going to react,” he said. “We’ve converted a lot of people. Our goal is to get people to get out and catch fish.”
Jigs work fine, but they work better if a stinger hook is added, he said.
“Shrimp presentation on a bucktail jig works, but it doesn’t look quite right,” he said.
“We’ve converted a lot of bobber fishermen to our Drifter rig, which work like jig but holds the shrimp horizontal, with its head down as the steelhead were used to seeing shrimp in the ocean.
“It has a sliding egg sinker that runs down to a puff ball (for holding scent), three beads and then two red hooks with egg loops.”