Thomas Olander is a young fisherman by most people’s standards — only 24 — but he’s spent nearly all of those years on Louisiana waters, first on his father’s shrimp boat and now on his own 35-foot Lafitte skiff.
“I’m one of the few young ones still doing this,” says Olander, while urging the boat’s 435-hp Caterpillar engine forward through Vermillion Bay, located in the state’s southwest, well to the west of the Atchafalaya River.
He once tried his hand at something else, but it didn’t work out.
Working 9 to 5 for someone else, he said, did not agree with him, and after two months in training for oilfield construction, he was back on the water. And so now, when asked what for him is a good day at the office, Olander gives a ready answer.
“When I can load the boat down with shrimp, if I can fill that boat up, that’s a good day,” says Olander, who sells his catch most of the time to a dock in Cypremort Point , La., owned by his aunt, Caroline Simon. The boat stays docked there, too, when he is not working. Olander himself lives in Jeanerette, a bit inland, but not terribly far away.
“Everybody in my family did it,” he says. “It’s kind of like it’s in my blood. For me, just being out here is the reward. The freedom of being able to come and go as I please, and the scenery. I see sunsets people never see. I see wildlife most people never see in their lifetime. I get the thrill of not knowing what is going to be in the net when I pick it up. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
The vessel is named Tucker Kaine, after his 2-year-old son, whom he plans to bring out for the first time this year.
“Oh yeah, he’ll be coming with me,” says Olander, hoping one day he might be a fisherman’s father. “I’ve got his white rubber boots and got his life jacket. He wants to be on the boat and pick the shrimp.”
National Fisherman’s “Who we are” briefly profiles fishermen from fisheries around the United States.