The weather didn’t seem so bad when John Trosclair Jr. launched his 19-foot Carolina skiff the night of Aug. 30, searching for shrimp stirred up by a hurricane 250 miles away.

But the 55-year-old Dulac, La., fisherman’s luck changed when squalls from Hurricane Harvey capsized and crippled the craft, turning the trip into a near-deadly ordeal.

A handful of shrimpers, coping with a slack year, trawled the near-shore waters of the southeast Louisiana coast as Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston. A roiling squall churned up the seas at around 2 a.m., and Trosclair struggled to stay afloat. He sheltered himself on the banks of some marshland then set out again, planning to cut the trip short. Then another band strafed the area, and proved too much.

“The wind was blowing the water in my boat,” Trosclair said. “I got my winch going and tried to bring in my frame and that was it, I went over, I was in the water.”

After he was knocked into the water, Trosclair salvaged his shovel, pistol and the boat’s shrimp box, which he used as a lifeboat.Tracey Trahan photo.

Thinking quickly, Trosclair salvaged his shovel, pistol and the boat’s shrimp box, which he used as a lifeboat. He paddled with the shovel for nearly two miles, seeking a place where he thought more boats might appear.

“I paddled and I prayed,” Trosclair said. But the wild marsh was desolate, and so he pushed the shrimp-box ashore to a marshy place, firing an occasional shot to attract attention. Seemingly defeated, he curled up in the shrimp-box and tried to get some sleep. He awoke hours later, saw no signs of help and went to sleep again.

Another shrimper, Tracey Trahan, was traveling the area in a much larger boat, the 55-foot Mr. Anthony Pookie Trahan, with his 18-year-old son, Austin.

“It was my dad had spotted him,” Austin said. “He comes running to the back hollering ‘I seen a box, there’s a man in it.’ I seen the box but I didn’t see a man. He did.”

The father and son helped John out of the shrimp box, then onto their vessel. After a rendezvous with sheriff deputies and medics — who determined Trosclair was no worse for the wear — the father and son returned to their shrimping and the deputies took John home.

Trosclair's boat was recovered the day after he capsized.

The next day the Trahans passed by Trosclair's flipped boat and recovered it. They began raising money from area fishermen.

“Good non-selfish people were able to replace his rigging, skimmers, picking table, new battery, wire, ropes, motors, baskets, rakes, shovel,dip net and baskets,” Tracey said. “I am so glad we were put in his path because he could have perished very easily. Being a smart Cajun, he was brilliant to jump inside his shrimp box. He was brave. He went out in this weather with that little 19-foot Carolina skiff because he knew he had to make a living and should be proud.”

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John DeSantis is the senior staff writer at The Times, a newspaper in Houma, La. and regularly contributes to National Fisherman.

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