How to Build Traps for Gulf Shrimp

by Sean Lancaster
Make your own shrimp traps for recreation in the Gulf.

Make your own shrimp traps for recreation in the Gulf.

Among the many different types of seafood that people eat, shrimp is one of the most common. A large part of the economy of states lining the Gulf of Mexico relies on the shrimping industry. Commercial shrimp boats net the shrimp from the bottom of the Gulf. Part-time fishermen can also catch shrimp to supplement their catch by using a shrimp pot. Shrimp pots or traps (the terms are used interchangeably) can carry a moderate price tag, but you can save money by building your own shrimp trap at home.

Constructing the Framework

Draw the specifics of your shrimp trap on paper so you have a plan to follow. Decide what size of trap you will construct and its dimensions. The size will depend on the size of the boat that will be tending the trap. A reasonable size is 1.5 feet high by 2 feet long by 2 feet wide.

Cut all the pieces of PVC pipe using the PVC cutter to make the six sides of the trap. The easiest way to construct the trap is to make each side of the trap and then tie them together. The finished trap will look like an elongated cube.

Assemble the top, bottom and two side pieces using the PVC tubing and PVC elbows. Clean each end of tubing and use the PVC glue to complete each face of the trap. You should now have two PVC rectangles that measure 2 feet by 2 feet and two that measure 1.5 feet by 2 feet.

Assemble the outer frame of the front and back of the trap.

Drill 1/4-inch holes along the lengths of PVC tubing and in the elbows to allow the trap to fill and drain with water. Failure to provide for this will give the frame positive buoyancy and cause the trap to float rather than rest on the bottom of the Gulf.

Covering the Sides With Wire

Set aside two of the 1.5-feet-by-2-feet pieces to serve as the front and back of the trap. Cover each of the remaining sides with chicken wire. Wrap the chicken wire around the PVC tube and connect it back to itself using galvanized wire. Twist the wire together using a pair of pliers. Make sure you secure the chicken wire every three to four inches to prevent the shrimp from escaping the trap. Repeat this process for the top and bottom of the trap.

Form a piece of chicken wire into a funnel that will extend from the front of the trap to 3/4 of the way to the center of the trap. Secure the edges of the funnel with galvanized wire so that it holds its shape.

Cover the front side of the trap with chicken wire as you did the other sides. Cut the wire in the center to accommodate the wide end of the funnel. Once the chicken wire is in place, attach the funnel to the opening such that the narrow end of the funnel points to the inside of the trap.

Cover the back side of the trap with chicken wire. Cut the chicken wire to allow for an opening large enough to load and replace the bait and to remove the shrimp. Once you have made the opening, cut a piece of chicken wire to serve as a cover for the hole and attach it to the surrounding chicken wire on the top. Make a wire tie to close it on the bottom side.

Attach the bottom of the mesh bag to the top or bottom face of the trap using the galvanized wire. Make sure to secure it well to avoid removal of the bag by other sea predators, such as crab. The bag will serve to hold the bait. The opening in the bag must be able to be tied shut when in the water and reopened to load more bait.

Assembly of the Trap

Assemble the trap into an elongated cube shape using galvanized wire. Make the box by connecting the top and bottom faces using the two sides. Use galvanized wire to secure the sides together and keep the shape of a box.

Attach the front piece to one end of the trap, making sure the funnel points into the trap, and then attach the back side to the other end of the trap.

Tie a piece of rope to the center of the front and back sides of the trap with about 12 inches of extra rope. Repeat the process between the centers of the two sides. These two ropes will serve to level the trap during retrieval. Join the two pieces of rope in the middle of the cage and attach a mini-carabiner to keep them together.

Attach your shrimp line to the carabiner, and you are ready to load your bait and toss it in the Gulf.

Items you will need

  • 1-inch PVC pipe
  • PVC cutter
  • PVC elbows
  • Drill and 1/4-inch bit
  • Chicken wire
  • Galvanized wire
  • Pliers
  • Mesh bag
  • Rope
  • Mini-carabiner


  • Use galvanized wire and chicken wire for the body of your trap. This will make the trap safer for the sea environment. If the trap is lost, the sea water will dissolve the metal, and the trap will fall apart, releasing any fish or other creatures trapped in it.
  • Always give your trap a freshwater rinse after use to prevent corrosion.
  • Attach a buoy to the top of your line with your name, address and phone number so that if your trap is found, it can be returned to you.
  • Check the local fishing regulations on catching shrimp. The laws vary by location.


  • Be aware that as the tide rises and falls, the buoy may lift your shrimp trap off the bottom. You may choose to attach a weight to the trap to hold it in place.


About the Author

Sean Lancaster has been a freelance writer since 2007. He has written for Writers Research Group, Alexis Writing and the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce. Lancaster holds a Doctor of Philosophy in chemistry from the University of Washington.

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