Who’s reeling in the catch?
This lot of wader-wearing sea-farers are to thank for your meal. Fishing for a living is not for the faint of heart, waking up when most of us are deep in our R.E.M cycle, braving only but the toughest elements, and spending time away from their families, they are fishermen because they adore what they do and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Their passion for their work runs as deep as Monterey Canyon (and sometimes as long), as does their commitment to maintaining the resilience of fish stocks and a healthy ocean by using catch methods that minimize environmental impacts. With each bite you take you are helping to secure their future and reviving Monterey’s rich heritage in commercial fishing!
Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Pennisi
Fishing Vessel (F/V): Sea Harvest
Calder is a 3rd generation fisherman operating out of Moss Landing. He grew up crewing for his father, Richard, and uncle Daniel Deyerle, owners of Sea Harvest, restaurants and a wholesale seafood business by the same name, and learned the ropes of commercial fishing at a young age. Fishing is in his family and in his blood. The fishing family also includes his brother, Walter (see below), and they have a small fleet of boats. Calder began to run his own boat for the family business in 2008, and continues to do so today. He currently fishes for Dungeness crab, king salmon, halibut, black cod, and rockfish.
Calder’s side-kick and deckhand is his young son, Miles, who assists him by sorting black cod into totes, and sometimes even takes his naps in the fish totes. He calls going out to sea with his father “home school.”
Calder and Miles made national news when they helped rescue a Humpback whale entangled in a line from a crab pot. “Miles refused to the leave the whale,” Calder explained. “So we called it in and stayed with the whale until the rescue team arrived.” Calder then began training to be a first responder for whale rescue. It makes sense, as he’s out on the Monterey Bay almost daily.
Fishing Vessel (F/V): Sea Harvest IV
Walter Deyerle is the quintessential waterman. When the 30-year-old is not making a living catching halibut, rockfish, sablefish and Dungeness crab on the Monterey Bay, he’s surfing, diving, boating and sport fishing. He’s even paddled out and caught waves at Mavericks, a monstrous break just north of Half Moon Bay
“It’s full-throttle ocean lifestyle for me,” Deyerle says while sitting on his boat, the F/V Sea Harvest IV, tied up in the Moss Landing harbor on a day the weather kept him from running Dungeness crab gear. “The ocean lifestyle around here is awesome.”
For Deyerle, commercial fishing is in his blood. He started running his own boat at the young age of 19. His earliest memories include being on the dad’s boat with his cousin and fellow fisherman Calder, helping out with the family trade.
“I’ve been fishing since I was a baby,” he notes. “I can’t remember a time I wasn’t on boats.”
Deyerle’s family not only operates a six-boat fleet of fishing vessels in Moss Landing, they bring fresh caught seafood to consumers at Sea Harvest restaurants and markets in Monterey and Carmel.
And while he grew up on fish and continues to eat fish nearly every day, he’s reluctant to say which is his favorite—outside wild California king salmon.
“I like anything with an interesting texture,” he says. “I eat so much seafood that I have to mix it up or I’d lose my mind eating black cod all day every day.”
Through his time spent on the Monterey Bay, since those early memories of crawling around boats in diapers, much has changed on the waterfront. There’re a lot less fishermen and a lot more regulations to deal with, but he’s undeterred and optimistic.
“The fishing is excellent here. It’s easy to go out and catch fish almost every day unless the conditions and the weather aren’t working with you,” he says. “The fish are there and the management is solid.”
Fishing Vessel (F/V): Pacific Bully
When Jerry Wetle was 12 years old, he would ride his skateboard around Monterey and often end up at the harbor. One day, a fisherman who was tying off asked for Jerry's help with a line. After this, the fisherman hired Jerry for small jobs, and then took him out as a deckhand. Jerry was hooked and wanted to quit school right then and there to pursue a life on the sea. His parents made him a deal - if he finished school, he could fish on weekends.
For the past 31 years, he’s been fishing and built his fleet up to seven boats. One of those, Pacific Bully, based in the Monterey harbor, fishes groundfish quota leased from the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust with pots and fishing lines. His boats catch rockfish, lingcod, and black cod, among other groundfish.
In 2008, when the economy took a downturn, his father, who had been a contractor, couldn’t collect on a big job for a local hotel and was in need of income. At the same time, Steve Jobs decided he wanted his employees at Apple to eat only sustainable, traceable seafood, and so he approached Jerry. Due to the sudden expansion - the Apple employees loved seafood - Jerry bought three new boats. Then Jerry was able to bring on his father to deckhand, then run a boat, and finally to manage the fleet. His brother also runs a boat in his fleet, and his mother does the accounting.
Jerry believes that sustainable fishing means taking a break from fishing certain areas so the stocks can recover, and collecting data while out on the Monterey Bay and sharing it. As for the importance of local seafood, “We’ll always support those who support us,” he said. “And we stay diversified in everything we do.”
Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Pennisi
Fishing Vessel (F/V): Pioneer
Guiseppe “Joe” Pennisi is a third generation Monterey fisherman. He began fishing at age 7, deckhanding on weekends and during summer vacation. He began running his own boat when he was 18 years old, but it unfortunately sunk in the icy seas of Alaska. He then fished Pollock in the Bering Sea, but returned to his native land and family to fish out of Monterey.
While being deeply rooted in traditional fishing, Joe also made a name for himself as an innovator to improve his boat’s efficiency and fish more sustainably. Joe now owns and operates F/V Pioneer, a light touch trawler. He custom built his net so that it doesn’t drag along the bottom, hence the term “light touch.” He increased the mesh size, so smaller fish can escape unharmed. He has also installed Go-Pro cameras in his net, so he can monitor what’s happening under water. Check out videos of the nets in action at Pioneer Seafoods. He is the first fishermen in 17 years to be issued a permit by the City of San Francisco to sell his catch direct-off-the-boat to the public at Pier 47 (right across from Scoma’s Restaurant).