Born in Abbeville, Louisiana, Oduse Trahan was one of nine children born to Augustin Trahan and Constance Faulk Trahan. In 1917, the family moved to Biloxi where Oduse began his career in the seafood industry picking shrimp at the factory right alongside his mother. His workday would begin before school and resume after with full workdays on Saturday.
In 1926, at the age of fourteen, he was assigned as crewman on the Miracle, an oyster dredging schooner owned by Seafood Packing Co. The following season, he served on the Twin Brother owned by DeJean Packing Co. Serving on this boat was hard work as all functions were manual – the hoisting of the sails was by hand as well as the winding up of the oyster dredges.
Leaving the Twin Brother, Oduse went to work for Mavar Packing Co. On the Elroy, an oyster and shrimp boat, he graduated from crewman to captain and gained his moniker “Captain Dago”. After two years of showing his skill, the president of DeJean Packing Co., Elmer Williams, sent for Oduse and offered him his own boat to work with the promise of moving him to larger and better boats as they came available. He readily accepted as boats were now equipped with wenches and frictions to pull up the dredges and trawls.
Captain Dago, worked on the Glenn & Kay, Col. John O’Keefe and the Nellie L which were all catch and freight boats – catching shrimp for a period then converting to receive other boats freight to return to the factory.
In the 1950’s, Captain Trahan was known as one of the top shrimpers in Biloxi. Often other boats would follow to see where he would lead as he seemed to “find the shrimp”. But the captain’s luck took a turn in 1953. While shrimping in the deep waters where he had more luck, a sawfish was caught up in the trawl. While hoisting it up to let it go, the fish flipped its tail throwing something in his right eye causing him to permanently lose sight on that side. Determined as ever, Dago returned to work as soon as he was well enough to operate the boat and continued his work for DeJean Packing until 1958 when he moved on to captain the Steve M. Sekul owned by Sea Coast Packing Co. Here he helped for four consecutive years in catching shrimp to serve at the Fais Do-do, a party held on the eve of the Blessing of the Fleet each year. In 1959, Mr. Sekul, the president of Sea Coast Packing Co. and for whom the boat was named, told Captain Dago he would like to have the boat decorated for the Blessing of the Fleet. With all supplies furnished by the owner and the creativity by Oduse, the boat won 2nd Place on their first year entering and 1st Place the following year and continued to place for seven consecutive years.
In 1967, tragedy once again struck Captain Dago. The year prior, he was made an offer he “could not pass up” to captain the Mary Rose owned by Carnelus White. The boat was a steel boat that “could really take the seas”, so he accepted. This decision almost cost his life when he was assisting a crewman with a tangled line. The rope snapped, wrapped around his left arm and almost severed it. Oduse thanked “God and the good doctors” for saving his arm and his career. He worked until Hurricane Camille ended his shrimping career in 1969.
Oduse enjoyed going shrimping with a friend to catch enough for his home needs but was satisfied with his garden after a 50-year career in the seafood industry. Captain Dago was celebrated in 1985 as he was crowned the Shrimp King, an honor of which he was very worthy.