Before Aaron Callais could walk, he was on a shrimp boat. Before he was 21, he was learning to be a captain.
Today, as a young adult with a wife and child, he’s hoping to be on the water as long as the industry around him can survive.
Callais was the captain of the ‘Ramblin’ Cajun’. He recently sold that boat for a more compact boat that will soon be called the ‘Emery Jane’. Callais said this is the only life he’s ever wanted for himself, and he plans to hold onto it for as long as he can while the industry struggles around him for survival.
“This is all I know how to do,” he said. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve always known that this was the life for me. To me, this has always been a passion.”
And it’s a passion that was sparked at birth.
Callais said he doesn’t know when he was first on a boat because it happened before he could remember when he was not yet able to walk or talk.
He said his first memories of being on the boat came a few years later as a toddler helping his dad.
He said growing up, living on the water was the only thing he ever wanted to do. He went to school because he had to, but he knew he would end up back on the boats as an adult.
Callais said he worked the BP Oil Spill fresh out of high school aboard the Ramblin Cajun. He assisted with clean-up, and learned odds and ins about being a captain.
After that experience, Aaron said that his father Michael told him to work another trawling season to continue to get seasoning.
Aaron said he knew that he was getting closer and closer to being ready, but he wanted to wait for his moment.
One day, he said he remembers talking to his Father about the industry, and it’s a conversation that the young trawler said he will never forget.
“I walked into the wheelhouse and he told me, ‘Son, I want to know if I give you this, will you catch shrimp?’” Callais remembers. “And I said, ‘Sure, Dad, I think so.’ Boy, that was not the answer he wanted. He told me, ‘To be the captain, you have to be more sure of yourself and you have to know that when you go out, you’ll catch shrimp.’ After a little time passed, we met again and he gave me my chance.”
Since becoming a captain, Callais said he’s having success, but he’s also having to constantly adapt to changes in the industry.
He said shrimping has changed drastically in the past few years. Places where he used to catch shrimp are now dry. And he has no concrete answer as to why.
“I really don’t know why,” Callais said. “They said when BP happened it might take 10 years for us to see the full effects. Is it that? Is it something else? We don’t know. But we do know there’s not shrimp where there should be shrimp sometimes.”
When asked to talk about the future of the industry, Callais said he doesn’t know how bright it’s going to be. Older trawlers often look at prices and fuel costs and other legitimate logistical challenges when pointing to concerns about the industry’s future. But for Callais, he takes a different approach in expressing his concerns.
On his boat, he said the biggest concern is labor. He said that’s the No. 1 reason why he recently downsized to a smaller boat — to be able to go out without needing as much help.
“Nobody wants to work,” Callais said. “You can’t find 2-3 guys who will get along for 30-40 days at a time to go shrimp and make some money. I hope it changes. When I was younger, I saw a big, bright future. But right now, it’s just hard to get workers. And when you find one, another boat comes in and makes them a captain. We have so many men who are in their 50s or 60s right now working. When those guys retire, we won’t have anything left. The younger people just aren’t on the boats doing it.”
Callais said anyone who wants to purchase shrimp from him can call him at (985) 637-9892 or contact him on Facebook.