Morgan City native is in cast of ‘Swamp Pawn’

Jamie Richard Morales grew up in Morgan City, where she didn’t really have any experience going out in the bayous, but, now, she and her husband make their living exclusively from fishing on those bayous.

Morales, 35, and her husband, Quentin, 35, will be featured as cast members on the upcoming reality show “Swamp Pawn” on CMT premiering at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The Morales are two of seven main cast members on the show. They live in Bayou Pigeon, an unincorporated community near Plaquemine, and fish anywhere from Grosse Tête to Morgan City, six days a week, she said.

“I moved up here (to Bayou Pigeon with her husband in 1996), and I worked a few jobs, but once I got out in that swamp, I just didn’t want to come back in,” Morales said laughing. She graduated from Morgan City High School in 1996. She has been fishing with her husband full time for the past four years.

“Swamp Pawn” is centered around Phillips Seafood in Bayou Pigeon and owner Rick Phillips. The Morales catch a variety of fish including catfish, buffalo, choupique, Asian carp and carp, mostly to sell as bait for crawfish to Phillips, Morales said.

“He (Phillips) buys the bait from us, and then he’ll process it. He freezes it; tapes it up, boxes it, then he sends it to the ponds. And then he buys the crawfish from the ponds,” she said.

There is another married couple on the show as well as a father and a son, she said.

“Me and Quentin are pretty much the youngest out of all the old-timers around here that fish full time, year round. That’s all we do is fish,” she said. Quentin Morales has been a commercial fisherman since 1996 and is originally from nearby Bayou Sorrel, she said.

Phillips was originally cast for “Swamp People” on the History Channel, she said. “They ended up not using Ricky, but he kind of knew people in the business, and he had a story he wanted to tell,” Morales said. Phillips, however, introduced a lot of the stars of “Swamp People,” including Troy Landry, to the production company that filmed the show, she said.

Phillips knew people in the production business, and Pilgrim Studios came to Bayou Pigeon about a year ago and began work on a scissor reel to show to networks filming Phillips and his seafood and bait suppliers, including the Morales, she said. CMT saw the scissor reel and decided to buy six hour-long episodes. “The production company came back, and we’ve been filming (in and around Bayou Pigeon) since the end of October, and they’re still filming,” she said. Two production crews of 15 to 20 people stayed through Christmas, and then one crew has been coming back since Christmas to film on weekends, Morales said.

“That (having film crews there) helps the community too. It helps with the business at the restaurants and the little convenience stores.”

The Morales still travel to Morgan City fairly often, she said. “We sell our fish over here and the (fish) eggs over there.”

In addition to fishing, “Swamp Pawn” focuses on residents of Bayou Pigeon bartering or trading, she said. “The way we live, if we need something and somebody else has got it, we might have something they need or want, some seafood or something, and we make a trade.”

Expectations are high for the show, she said. “They’re telling us we’re probably going to have a good long run with the show. CMT saw it, and they were so excited that they’re going to air it on the 26th of this month. We were supposed to come on in March.”

If the show’s ratings are good after three shows, the production crew is supposed to come back and film more episodes, she said.

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