Shrimpers: Powering Up For Royal Reds

Wednesday, July 28, 1999
Bayou La Batre, Ala.-based shrimper Bill Sessions fishes shrimp from the Atlantic coast of Florida to the Texas coast. Most recently he has worked from his 500 hp KTA19 Cummins-powered 80 x 22-ft. Little Bill towing four 50-ft. nets with 10-ft. by 40-in. doors. In early May, he will take delivery of new 96 x 24-ft. Debra Lee from Winston Williams' Boatworks in Bayou La Batre. For the new boat he has increased the power to an 800 hp Cummins KTA38 coupled to a Twin Disc 5202 gear with a 6:1 reduction. The motivation for the new vessel is to take part in the growing offshore fishery for Royal Red shrimp. Rather than the 40-fathom depths that he has been fishing 20 to 50 miles off, he will be going 90 to 100 miles off in the Gulf of Mexico to fish at depths of 275 to 300 fathoms. In the new fishery he will tow four 60-ft. nets with 12-ft. by 40-in. doors. With the shallower depths he fished with Little Bill, Sessions was able to operate the smaller McElroy 504 winch with a hydraulic power take off from the main engine. With the larger McElroy 704 double drum winch on the new boat he will be carrying 500 fathoms of .625-in. and 200 fathoms of .75-in cable with .563-in. bridles. To handle this much wire he has gone to a separate hydraulic system driven by a Cummins 6BT auxiliary. Another Cummins 6BT drives a 75 kW gen set for Debra Lee's electrical needs, including the dual compressors on the freezer systems that allows the routine 30 day trips that the boat will make. "We will carry five crew members, including my 20-year old son Bud, on this boat compared to only three on Little Bill, so we can clear the bigger nets quickly," says Sessions, "And the bigger boat is more comfortable in the weather. Some of the guys are fishing off shore with only 671 hp but I've always had Cummins. I liked them so I stayed with them. My oldest son, Bill Jr, has Eunice LaMay with a KTA19 that is doing just fine." Forty-seven-year old Bill Sessions has been fishing since he started with his dad, Doc Sessions, when still in high school, but he is still excited by a new boat and the challenge of a new fishery. "I've never fished the Royal Reds," he says, "They tell me that they are very specialized on conditions with only a 1.5 degree temperature tolerance and they like only a very narrow depth range." Bill is building his own nets for the new boat and will get his new doors from Bayou Rigging in Bayou La Batre. Little Bill will continue being fished in the family fleet by Bill's second son, Bryan.
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