My in-laws came to visit in the beginning of the summer. We took them to see Taipei 101 and the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. We rode the gondola to the top of Maokong and had tea with a Taiwanese tea farmer. We walked around Danshuei and watched the sun set. We had Sichuan hot pot at Lao Sichuan. We visited the aboriginal town of Wulai. We spent hours digging around the ceramic shops of Yingge, looking for the perfect tea set.
And on the last day, when I was tired and burnt out, I took them shrimp fishing at the place down the street.
And these people turned to me and said, “This is the best thing we’ve done the whole time we’ve been in Taiwan.”
Oh, how we laughed and laughed…
Shrimp fishing in Taiwan is pretty interesting, though. I had never gone for the longest time because my Taiwanese friends were like ew gross there are chemicals in the water and we aren’t eating the shrimp. Then I tried to go once during Chinese New Year, but it turns out they don’t do the fishing when the water is too cold, which is good to know. (As long as it’s open, you can get some awesome shrimp cooked in every different way.)
I finally went this spring with my friends who are friends with the owners of a giant shrimp-fishing place out in Puxin. They set us up with rods and set us at the edge of the water and…nothing happened. For a whole ten minutes. And then we noticed that everyone who had stayed at the table was eating heaping plates of fried shrimp, and since that’s really the goal, isn’t it?, we gave up on fishing for our own shrimp and sat down to some delicious fried seafood that required no effort on our part to procure.
That night, we ate and drank there for hours, which gave us plenty of time to observe the shrimp-fishing crowd. I usually think of fishing as an activity enjoyed by people who want to spend time in nature and enjoy the tranquility of the early morning with only the sounds of the moving water, wind, birds, and insects to set the ambiance. But in the shrimp fishing place, there was a cover band playing and after they left, the owners blasted electronic dance remixes of the catchiest English and Chinese songs. It was as loud as any bar, but as bright as a hospital. The shrimp fishers were crowded shoulder-to-shoulder around the water in flimsy white plastic lawn chairs.
You could rent a rod and a net, but a lot of enthusiasts had their own tackle boxes. They were all aluminum boxes, about the size of briefcases, and as wildly colorful as Lisa Frank binders, but decorated with popular manga characters. In almost every way, it felt like the opposite of fishing, but everyone who was there was very happy to be there.
The beer helped, I’m sure. Isn’t that a fun way to spend the night, though? If you’re gonna go out drinking, why not add a little sport?
After that experience, I felt confident enough to bring the fam to the place down the street. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would go, but the owner explained everything to us and helped us get set up before he went to the kitchen area and start prepping for dinner. We were discouraged at first just because we had no idea what to expect and it seemed like our bait kept disappearing without any indication that a shrimp had been near the hook. My brother-in-law caught the first shrimp, but we had no idea what to do with it. Thankfully our excited yelping and arm waving attracted the attention of some nice folks who knew what the deal was, and one man came over and showed us how to carefully take the shrimp off the hook. They’re huge–it was a little scary.
One we got a feel for it, it was super easy. We caught about ten shrimp, but because we had dinner plans, we just gave them to the guy that had helped us take the first one off the hook and left. Coincidentally, we went to a Japanese barbecue place for dinner and they had the same shrimp on the menu! We missed out on nothing.
The shrimp fishing didn’t start until 2:00 p.m. For like $600 for two hours, we got the rods, hooks (which we had to replace a couple of times), more than enough chicken liver and tiny shrimps for bait, and nets. The beer was NT$100 for a big bottle of the Taiwan Gold Medal, which is pretty standard. I think if you get to cook what you catch, it’s not a bad deal. It’s definitely a unique experience. Next time, I’ll take my guests from the U.S. there first instead of taking them to Taipei 101…
Here’s a very professional video of somebody else shrimp fishing in Taipei: