Shrimp are one of the best baits you can use in both salt and fresh water

Use a Ghost Shrimp Pump to catch Bait

One thing that I have enjoyed is catching my own shrimp to fish with.  It not only has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years but it’s fun too.

slurp gun and bucketI remember the very first time I saw a guy standing out in the bay at low tide with a long tube he kept sticking down into the sand.  Beside him was a bucket and every few pulls he was throwing something in the bucket.

At that time I had not lived near the Pacific coast long, but I certainly wanted to learn how to catch fish in the ocean here.  I spent some time talking with the guy back at his car and learned that he had been using a ghost shrimp pump to catch shrimp for fishing.

He had a whole bucket full of ghost shrimp and I knew buying just a dozen was very expensive in the bait shop. 

I had to try it and was lucky to find a shop nearby that sold ghost shrimp pump guns like the one I had seen being used to catch all those shrimp.

Get shrimp on bay at Low tideI’ve only seen them sold in a few bait or hardware stores since. But when my boys grew big enough to go fishing with me and help me catch ghost shrimp I made a couple more ghost shrimp pumps for them.

fishing the Oregon coast


Being a mechanical design engineer it was easy for me to reverse engineer the one I had purchased.  The gun is fairly simple, made from PVC pipe and other items you can find in any hardware store.

Over the years the most enjoyable day fishing for me is when I can drive to coast at low tide. Catch a bucket full of ghost shrimp and then spend the best half of the rising tide fishing on the beach for red tailed perch or off the rocks for rockfish.

When you have 50 or more ghost shrimp you don’t have to worry about running out of bait or loosing expensive shrimp you bought in the bait shop.

What Ghost Shrimp are-

– & Where to find them

Ghost ShrimpGhost shrimp are native to the American west coast.

They prefer the colder water found along the beaches from Southern Alaska as far south as the US-Mexican border.  I’ve seen a couple articles indicating there are some ghost shrimp on the gulf coast in the winter too. I can’t say for sure but I do expect in the cooler waters in other parts of the world you may be able to find a variation of these.

 Find Ghost Shrimp at Low Tide

ghost shrimp holesIn order to find these you need to go out on the sandy flats of any bay at low tide. Depending on the location you may be able to catch them even at half tide but to be sure, low tide is best.

Look for shrimp holes. The Ghost shrimp live in colonies so when you find them there will be a lot holes some as big around as your thumb. They usually leave a little mound of sand around the opening making it look like a tiny volcano.

In order to catch them you need to push the ghost shrimp pump into the sand so it goes into the colony below the holes.  Do this in a place where the water lever is close to the surface. You can try going shallow at first. Just push the outer tube into the sand about 6 inches deep.  Let the plunger slide up so it stays on top of the sand.  Now pull back hard on the plunger to draw a vacuum and at the same time pull the outer tube out of the sand.

getting ghost shrimpPlace the contents (sand and water) of the tube out on the sand beside you to see if there are any shrimp in it.  Look back carefully at the hole you just made with the plunger. Often there are shrimp floating in the water that is in the hole.

When I first tried this it seemed that the shrimp were often back in the hole.  I remember my kids young at the time, would follow me around and kept finding shrimp in the holes I had made when I had not got any.

If you’re not getting any shrimp push the ghost shrimp pump all the way down before drawing it out again.  If after two or three pulls in the same hole you don’t see any move a few feet and try again.  Soon you’ll be pulling out as many as 4 shrimp in a single pull.

Fishing the Oregon coastIt takes some time especially in the winter months to fill a bucket and it is quite a workout.  But I always enjoy it and make an integral part of my fishing trips to the coast.

Building the Ghost Shrimp Pump

All the items you need to build a ghost shrimp pump gun can be found at your local hardware store.  They are not hard to make but require a couple hand tools such as a saw and drill.

slurp Gun -PVC CapIt’s best to use schedule 40 PVC pipe and you’ll need PVC glue. Now in order to make the outside tube you will need;

  • PVC pipe – 2″ Diameter x 30″-32″ long. (If you’re tall make it long)
  • PVC Cap – 2″ Dia.

The PVC cap will need a hole drilled in it, 1″ diameter to accept the inner plunger pipe. Once you have the hole in the PVC cap you can glue the cap on the 2″ dia. tube.

ghost shrimp pump - T handleghost shrimp pump - L handleNext you’ll need some items for the inner plunger assembly.  I’m showing two different handles for the ghost shrimp pump. Some people even add a handle to the side of the large tube but I don’t so just get what you need.

  • PVC pipe – 1/2″ Diameter x 48″ long
  • PVC fitting – 1/2″ T or elbow depending on the handle style you want. (I prefer to use an elbow)
  • PVC fitting – 1/2″ coupling /slip fit (to be glued onto the pipe)
  • PVC fitting – 1/2″ male cap / slip fit
  • Washer (2) – 2″ outside diameter – OK to be smaller, 1 1/2 inch.
  • Carriage Bolt – 1/4″ x 2 1/2 inches long
  • Wing Nut – 1/4″  to fit on the lag bolt
  • Soft rubber ball – 2″ diameter ( a plumbing plug may also be used, modify hardware accordingly)

To prepare the parts you’ll need to drill a 1/4″ hole through the center of the ball and the PVC 1/2″ plug.

To assemble;

  1. Put the bolt through the plug, washer, balGhost shrimp pump gun inner plungerl & washer in that order.
  2. Last screw the wing nut on the end of the bolt to finish that assembly.  You may need to hold the nut on the inside of the cap or insure the square part of the screw under the screw head fits tightly into the hole to keep it from turning.
  3. As you tighten the wing-nut notice that that ball will squash and expand.  You want it to fit snugly into the outer tube.  Too tight will make your ghost shrimp pump gun hard to use, too loose and it will not suck the water and air along with the shrimp out of the holes.  Don’t worry you can adjust it anytime. At least until it rusts.
  4. Glue the 1/2″ plug into the coupling, then glue the coupling onto the 1/2″ PVC pipe.

ghost shrimp pumpThis finishes the plunger assembly.  Now as you can see in the picture my guns are rusty from use and one of my guns has the top cap broken out.  This is from pulling hard and having the inside plunger smack the inside of the cap.  It doesn’t happen all the time but eventually the cap will break and you”ll need a new gun.

ghost shrimp pump gun - springIf you want to prevent this from happening buy a spring to put on the rod of the inner plunger.  If you have any broken sprinklers that spring will work great.  Just slide it over the 1/2″ PVC pipe.

Before you finish the assembly drill a small hole, 1/4 inch diameter into the side of the outer tube about 6inches from the top of the cap. This will let the air or water out as you pull up the plunger.

ghost shrimp pump gun - vent hole

Ghost Shrimp Pump Final Assembly

OK now we can put it all together.  Insert the 1/2″ pipe of the inner plunger assembly up through the hole of the outer tube cap. Push the ball of the inner  assembly up until it is inside the outer tube by about 1/2 inch.

Mark the place on the 1/2″ pipe where it sticks out of the hole in the 2″ cap. This is where you want the bottom of your T or elbow fitting to be so the ball will always be inside the outer tube.

Remove and cut the inner 1/2″ pipe to length. Slip the spring (if you are using one) over the 1/2 pipe and reinsert it into the outer tube.  Now glue the fitting, either T or L onto the 1/2″ pipe.   Cut the remaining 1/2″ pipe you have left over to use for the handles to whatever length works for you.

That’s it your done.

Now go out and get some shrimp with your new Ghost Shrimp Pump Gun at the next low tide.


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