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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Alphonse "Al" Cassagne

Alphonse “Al” Cassagne grew up on the West Bank, in the suburbs of New Orleans, spending summers at his family’s Grand Isle fishing camp. He shrimped with his father (who worked in the school system the rest of the year), ran crab traps, and owned his own boat by the time he was a teenager.

The water called to Al, and he moved to Grand Isle permanently directly after graduating from high school. He worked as a commercial fisherman for most of his adult career, selling his catch to the docks while fuel prices skyrocketed and seafood prices stagnated or, worse, declined.

In 2004, Al discovered a more profitable profession in catching and selling bait. At his Coastal Bait Shop, he sells live and frozen bait—shrimp, croakers, pogies, minnows, squid, mullet, crabs—as well as handmade crab traps, bait tackle, and some prepared seafood for the unlucky, hungry fisherman. Al witnessed, and endured, dips in business due to recent hurricanes and 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but he remains optimistic about the future of the bait trade.

As long as there are fish in the Gulf, he believes, Louisianans will put out a line.

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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