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Off-the-boat sales strong: Salmon fishermen drawing seafood lovers to Half Moon Bay
June 19, 2013, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal The Hinz family receives a lesson from Jim Anderson about their soon to be dinner.

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal Eric Pennington walks away from the Allaine with a bag full of fresh fish.


With intermittent summer days on the coast, the weather isn’t always conducive for fishermen in Half Moon Bay’s Princeton Harbor. But when the skies clear and provide spurts of calm, the public is sure to have direct access to off-the-boat salmon sales.

Three-and-a-half weeks ago, Jim Anderson, commercial salmon and crab fisherman and captain of the Allaine, said the fish hadn’t bitten that good since 2005. Between 200,000 to 300,000 pounds of fish were caught that week from the Farallon Islands in San Francisco down to Pigeon Point south of Pescadero, Anderson said.

Not only were the fishermen excited by their success, but the public and those who traveled to the harbor were as well. This influx of catchable salmon allowed families to walk up to boats such as the Allaine and buy fish as fresh as two days old.

Dale and Heidi Hinz, along with their 10-year-old son Christian, enjoy perusing the harbor and meeting the fishermen. They buy off-the-boat several times a season because they know that’s where they’ll get the freshest fish, Dale Hinz said. While the Hinz kids walk along the docks marveling at the giant fish, its shiny scales and surprising teeth, Dale and Heidi Hinz chat with Anderson about their love of salmon and preparation.

“It’s a very rich, very hearty versatile meat,” Dale Hinz said.

There’s no end to Heidi Hinz’s culinary makings of the salmon her and her family adore. From smoking to baking and grilling to adding it to miso soup, Heidi Hinz said she makes use of the entire salmon and leaves nothing wasted. The Hinz family purchased an astonishing 15-pound fish, one of the largest of Anderson’s catch.

“We take it home, cut it up, vacuum seal it and it’ll last for months,” Dale Hinz said.

The state regulates a salmon must be a minimum of 27 inches to be caught; Anderson’s fish range from about eight pounds up to 18 pounds. Due to an agreement between the fishermen and the local fish markets, off-the-boat salesmen aren’t allowed to cut the fish. However, the harbor’s Princeton Seafood Company Market will fillet a whole fish for just $5. The current price per pound of the off-the-boat salmon is around $9, a huge savings when buying direct.

But fishermen aren’t exempt from feeling the sting of the wholesale buying market. A few years ago, Anderson and some of his peers were flabbergasted when wholesale buyers offered only 92 cents per pound. Knowing this would barely cover their costs, they strove to raise the price through off-the-boat sales. They initially gave away 100 pounds of salmon and a crowd spanning the length of the dock and up to the street immediately gathered, Anderson said. When that ran out, people were more than happy to start buying from them directly because of the freshness and the bargain, Anderson said. Thanks to their resourcefulness, they were able to raise the wholesale prices by a dollar within a few short days, Anderson said.

When the fish are caught in large quantities and there may be momentary excess, buyers can try and take advantage, Anderson said. Recently, wholesale buyers tried to lower the cost to $5 per pound, Anderson said.

“As soon as we catch a few fish, they want to put it in the freezer so they can sell it later. And then want us to absorb their whole freezing cost and thawing cost involved in selling it later. We end up paying for all that,” Anderson said.

Avid sport fisher Eric Pennington said he comes to the harbor nearly once a week and sympathizes with the trials men like Anderson face.

“I appreciate what these guys do. Especially going out and risking their lives, putting their lives in danger to go out and bring beautiful bountiful harvest for us,” Pennington said.

Buying direct through off the boat sales is about more then freshness; it’s also about supporting the local community, Pennington said. Pennington is disappointed by the immobility the wholesale buyers sometimes inflict on the commercial fishermen.

“They’ve really taken the livelihood out of the fishing industry,” Pennington said.

One of the true perks of buying off the boat is the ability to talk with these salmon experts, Pennington said. Anderson is more than obliged to share his fishing tales, explain his techniques and dish out cooking advice. Even for an experienced fisherman like himself, talking with the off-the-boat salesmen at the harbor is still educational, Pennington said.

Pennington’s refined fishing tastes take him to Alaska and Canada. But when he runs out of his 1,000-pound stock he personally caught, he heads straight to the harbor knowing it’s the best place to replenish his supply, Pennington said.

For those who don’t have the leisure of popping over the hill regularly enough to happen upon off-the-boat sales, there’s the new FishLine app. It’s free to download from iTunes and will inform visitors of where and when to buy.

Judy and Steve Pettee came to Half Moon Bay unaware of the harbor’s off-the-boat salmon sales. Judy Pettee was thrilled to learn about the informative app and said she expects to use it in the near future. After a friendly conversation with Anderson, they plan on returning with a cooler in hand to not only buy fresh fish, but develop a story as well, Judy Pettee said.

“On Sundays, I like to go home and have a nice fish for dinner. The whole ambiance is much better when you know you’re eating a fresh fish and you know the fisherman you got it from. There’s a story behind it,” Judy Pettee said.

Commercial salmon fishing season runs through Nov. 10. Anderson recommends visitors bring a cooler and check the FishLine app for daily and hourly updates on where to buy.



Tags: anderson, salmon, pennington, their, harbor,

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