From Boat to Table
Anglers have turned to selling their catches right off their boats to subsidies their incomes during the slower seasons.
HALF MOON BAY-Commercial anglers are on board with the progressive concept of hosting a fish market directly from their boats to sell their most recent catches.
A small city 40 minutes south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, is one harbor that has begun to capitalize on this innovative fish market concept. These devoted, sea-loving anglers and customers are quickly becoming the reason for the Bay area’s growing patronage of locally sourced seafood. In addition, the support for the markets has allowed vendors to pave the pathway to sustainability.
Buyers are now able to wait on the docks while anglers sell them the catches they caught only hours before, directly from their boats. Pillar Point Harbor in San Mateo County has crowds of customers lining their docks, waiting to purchase the seafood they know and trust.
The off-the-boat market has become a great way to supplement the fisher’s incomes when commercial sales are slow.
Jim Pruett is the General Manager of the San Mateo Harbor District. “When the price of fish wasn’t high, and there wasn’t a commercial market, the harbor district started working with the fishermen to allow off-the-boat sales,” said Pruett. “They’re commercial fishermen and not just simply weekend anglers; you have to have a commercial fishing license and permits. So, they come into the docks here, and you can buy the fish off the boat, but they cannot fillet it. They can only gill and clean it.”
Anglers share what they caught, the price per pound, and when they will arrive at the docks on the fishline app at https://fishlineapp.com/. The app includes a text line and a count on what is still available. The harbormaster also posts a count of the inventory on a board at the base of Johnson Pier, and it is very easy for people passing by to walk the pier and peruse the fish from the boats below.
“You can buy rock cod, lingcod, halibut fresh crab, and salmon, of course,” said Pruett. “There are thousands of people who come down and take advantage of the off-the-boat sales. It’s a great atmosphere to be in and to come down and support the fishermen directly because your dollars are going directly to the fishermen who caught the fish. They appreciate the business, as do we.”
With Dungeness crab season beginning in November, anglers will be introducing the crab to their menus. The Dungeness crab has become a feast favorite during late fall, just as desired as a turkey dinner.
“It is seven days a week, but there is no specific schedule for the boats,” said Pruett. “A boat will go out fishing and come in and offer their catch for sale. Most boats know that the weekend is when everybody comes out, so they try to be in on the weekends for the largest customer base.”
Like Pillar Point Harbor is Pearson’s Port in Newport Beach, California. Roy and Viola Pearson have owned Pearson’s Port since 1971, and today the family-owned business continues to sell fresh seafood from their vessels. The haul is caught and then immediately goes up for sale in the Pearson’s Port market.
Fish this fresh has many benefits. It’s locally sourced and as fresh as possible; that’s a given. But the quality and taste of the fish prove to be much more superior than those fish that can be bought at the supermarket. These local markets also offer more variety than the Supermarkets, which sell only the most common fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut. The anglers also have extensive knowledge of the fish they are selling. Buying from these markets supports local businesses, fishers, and the state’s commercial fishing industry.
Information and links for anglers, vessels, and catches in Half Moon Bay can be found at https://www.smharbor.com/buy-fish-off-the-boats.
Information on Pearson’s Port can be found at https://pearsonsport.com/.