Shrimp Fishing in Taipei
Nothing will reel you in quite like shrimp fishing in Taipei. These 24-hour “catch-your-own-shrimp bars” require you to put in some work before meal is served.
If you want to eat, you are going to have to earn it. Welcome the Taiwanese take on The Hunger Games. It’s a more literal equivalent rather than an episodic, fight to the death but I’m not kidding when I say that I whispered “…and may the odds be ever in your favor” like a solemn prayer before casting my line. Indoor shrimp fishing is a popular form of entertainment in Taiwan, transforming food into sport. Huddled around a shallow rectangular pool, seasoned anglers and wannabe fishermen attempt to catch the freshwater shrimp lurking in the murky depths below. When it comes down to shrimping, you’re submerged in a painful waiting game for your next meal. An underground urban phenomenon that’s been around for the past three decades, shrimp fishing been gaining traction within tourist circles due to the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Vice Munchies, and my good friend, Sonny of the Best Ever Food Review Show (who finally convinced me to go on this mission). I’d liken this recreational exercise to the Taiwanese version of bowling. This pastime is ultimately a combination of Taiwan’s strong affinity for fellowship and its deep-seated maritime traditions.
WHERE TO GO SHRIMP FISHING IN TAIPEI
The large majority of indoor fishing pools are clustered around the Shilin MRT Station. Most blogs state that the pools are an easy hunt away, but in actuality, the pools are a bit hidden and more of the beaten path than others would suggest. After about 20 minutes of walking and entering a more residential area, we flagged down a taxi and asked for the spot made popular by Bourdain. Honestly, if we never hopped in the cab we wouldn’t have found it!
Name? ChuenCheng 春城釣蝦場
Where? No. 471, Section 2, Zhishan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei, Taiwan 至善路二段471號 士林區, 台北市 111 Taiwan
How to get there: Take a taxi and show them the address in Mandarin below to avoid any confusion although most taxi drivers will know what you’re taking about. You can also take the buses 1, 13, 18, 19, and 255 and get off at the Waishuaxgi Bridge Stop. Cheung Cheng will be two doors down to your left.
HOW MUCH DOES SHRIMP FISHING COST?
The price is fixed. One hour starts at NT$350 (~$11.50 USD) and you get one fishing rod, a net and a plate of chicken liver and some dried baby shrimp for bait. There is no limit as to how many shrimp you can catch and how long you can fish for, so feel free to just linger. If you find yourself rather unlucky, not to worry, the site doubles as a seafood restaurant specializing in *dun-dun-dunnnn* SHRIMP. So don’t worry about going home with an empty stomach.
HOW DID WE DO WITH SHRIMP FISHING
This shrimping arena is housed in a somber warehouse with the harsh light of day giving seeping in from massive steel frame windows. The establishment is sectioned off into three main areas: the pool where the catching commences, the dining area where revelers munch on their shrimp skewers, and at the back end of the warehouse is the cooking station. At the entrance, you’re invited to look at the price board while the staff puts together the necessary gear. In no time, you’ll be walking towards the pool. Make sure to grab a drink from the fridge, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. We’re not judging. But it was 1 p.m. when we arrived, too early to get our buzz on, although shrimp “bars” tend to be a place where people keep the party going long after the Shilin Night Market stop, Taipei’s most popular night market.
As a fishing virgin, I easily messed up untangling my line however, I found out I have a knack for baiting hooks. Tim and I started shrimping but my endless fidgeting and the drifting of my line seemed to have caught the attention of a middle aged Taiwanese man named Oscar, who took an instant liking to Tim. I’m not sure if he came to our aid simply because of the Taiwanese affinity for helping or if our pathetic selves won over his sympathy— either way, I was happy to be in his company. He put special bait on Tim’s hook, the secret being shrimp intestines, and left us to our own devices but not without keeping a watchful eye out on Tim. After Tim lowered his line, he caught one immediately! He threw the first catch of the day into his net securely fastened onto the faucet hanging from the pool’s inner wall to keep the shrimp wet.
After 50 minutes of fidgeting on the uncomfortable plastic chair with my line swaying and my patience growing thin, Oscar came over again and gave us some more of his special shrimp intestines. It’s a bit tricky to slide the intestine on the hook, which should be approached as if you’re lining the hook, but when that’s done, it makes for a quick win! When I lowered my line down with the fresh bait, I felt a small tug on my line and the bobble lowered once. Oscar motioned me to wait a minute for a second tug, which is the time when you should reel it in. After the bobble dipped underwater again, I gently tugged on the line and out came my little bottom dweller. These freshwater shrimp are much bigger than I expected and flail around miserably with their multifarious ligaments going each and every way. But it’s hard not to admire their bluish ochre exoskeleton when holding them up close. Head’s up: you have to be up to the task of pulling out the hook deeply lodged in their mouths. It was pretty grim, not gonna lie. We were almost at an hour and a half into fishing so I attempted another score with the newly learned strategy. Booyah! Got it! All in all, Tim and I made out with three hefty shrimp. But another surprise of the day was being presented out of the blue with a net of about a dozen shrimp from a veteran shrimper. The guy parked directly across from us came over and just handed Tim the net and then walked back to his seat. He was a man of little words but the gesture spoke volumes of this incredible kindness that reverberated throughout the city. I love how we came into this feast thinking we weren’t gonna eat and now we made off with more then we could chew!
HOW TO COOK THE SHRIMP
When you’ve caught your fill, head to the back of the warehouse to start cooking process. The sizzle of the grill becomes louder as you near your destination. Feel a bit intimidated? You could just copycat the process or better yet, ask someone to walk you through the process!
👉 Have you ever gone shrimp fishing? Are there more good eats I should discover? Comment below with your hidden gems!
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This has got to be the best way to eat shrimp. So awesome that you get to do the whole thing yourself, from catching all the way to cooking it 🙂 Also, we have heard that Taiwanese people are some of the most friendly and kind people you will meet traveling, and it sure looks like you experienced that too. Oscar was a legend and the guy with the net of shrimp was just so sweet. We can’t wait to visit Taiwan!
Ok now that is something different!!! I so love your blog – you have a wonderful way of making things sound super cool!
Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel
I’m from Taipei and I have never tried this! Sounds like a fun experience, even if you only caught 3 shrimp haha. I wonder if that guy who passed you a bag of shrimp just does it for fun?
What a fun thing to do – at least if you like fishing! I would love to do this when we get to Taiwan. HopefullyI will catch some shrimp and I won’t have to purchase from the restaurant.
I can’t believe how huge those shrimp are they must have been so tasty! Thank goodness Oscar acme to your rescue, I would’ve been pretty lost too. You did really well in the end! It just shows you need the help if an expert to get the knack, or a friendly stranger.
Beer, sharp hooks, shrimp guts and murky water. What could possibly go wrong? Sounds like a fun way to catch an infected finger or something!
But I do like prawns and beer, so there’s probably an upside to it.
Just out of idle curiosity, how much does it cost to just walk in off the street, skip the whole “catch-your-own-food” experience and get a bowl of cooked shrimp and a beer?
Chantell - Adoration 4 Adventure
I have to admit that I am not really into seafood but this still sounds like a neat idea! Something really different and an experience for tourists for sure. If I went with friends, I might give the fishing a try, even if I didn’t eat them ha ha. Also I have heard so many great things about Taipei so would like to visit one day.
This is just so weird and I absolutely want to do it. It’s even better that I can do it while enjoying a cold beer. I keep putting off going back to Asia because the time difference makes it a no-go for work, but maybe I need to just get more creative.
Stella the Travelerette
Shrimp are one of my favorite foods in the world, so I’d love to do this. I’ve been lobster fishing, but never shrimping. This seems more exciting than lobster fishing. I can see why people in Taipei do this as entertainment. And I love how the shrimp came out in your photos!
Sandy N Vyjay
The idea of blending food and sport looks like a winning combo. Also ‘earn’ your food concept is something which is enticing. It is good that there is a backup plan in case the fish do not bite your bait, so you do not go hungry.
What a great thing to do, looks like so much fun, and a excuse to hunt and kill our own meal like our ancestors, and there is beer to make things even better.
Although I am a vegetarian and I don’t like fishing also. But I have friends who love shrimp and they always talk about how wonderful fresh shrimp tastes to them. I am going to forward this post to them. I am sure they are going to jump with joy
Wow this is very detailed i specifically like the fact that no catch means no meal for you.
Wow! Lots of fun. Indoor fishing in now going popular day by day. You know I always do fishing, catch fish from our nearest pond but I think indoor fishing is more enjoyable.
Izzy, I love this article, love your photos too. Thanks for sharing. Happy fishing 🙂