Most people only dream about life on the rolling sea. But at Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor, a number of fishing companies offer a variety of ways for people to interact with the mighty Pacific, whether watching whales, enjoying the freshest-caught fish sold direct from the harbor, or spending an afternoon or a whole day trying to land a salmon or a mini-school of rockfish for dinner.
Because of changing state regulations that sometimes affect the fishing seasons of various species differently, it’s always good to call ahead if you’re thinking about booking a charter fishing trip. Remember to purchase your fishing license prior to boarding your vessel, and check with the captains about any other necessities you might need for your journey.
All Aboard for Adventure!
For Captain Tim Gillespie, Fort Bragg native
Captain Tim has run his charter fishing business for over 40 years, as did his father. “I got my first boat 19 years ago. We started out buying a few crab pots to do sport crabbing. No one had ever tried it,” says Tim. From there, he expanded into whale watching tours and salmon and rock cod sport fishing trips. His vessel, the Sea Hawk is a 45-foot charter boat, capable of carrying up to 23 passengers for fishing and up to 30 for whale watching tours.
Every year the fishing season is a little different. “This year, we’ve seen salmon season starting in April.” Salmon season continues until October 31, and rock cod fishing will continue until the end of December.
Tim’s lifetime of fishing off the Mendocino Coast has given him great instincts on where the fish are biting. “You literally get a feel for where they are. There are other signs, like a color change in the water or bird activity.” When he feels the need, Tim can also rely on modern navigation fish-finding equipment.
Tim offers experiences for seasoned fishermen and women, as well as trips for beginners. The price of the charter trip includes rod, reel
Tim feels that fishing for rock cod provides more of a hands-on experience for those wanting a real fishing experience. “With salmon, you’ve got deck hands running your gear, because you’re trolling. It’s very tiring to keep your rod at a certain depth. Rock cod is more fun unless the salmon bite is really hot,” he smiles. He notes that when he first started operating, 90% of his customers fished for salmon. “Now, it’s the other way around. Ninety percent of customers are interested in rock cod.”
California’s Fish and Game Department have strict limits on the size and number of fish that can be caught. “Salmon have to be 20 inches. There’s almost no size limit for rock cod. Lingcod must be 22 inches, cabezon
Once you’ve caught the big one, Tim’s deckhands filet your catch and cut it into steaks. “We put them in a bag and you’re good to go,” he smiles. “We’re very family-oriented. We love having kids on board.”
Children are welcome on the boat. “There’s no age limit, but the Coast Guard requires kids 12 and under to wear a life jacket at all times.” Youth 16 years or older who intend to fish must have their own fishing license.
The best times for sport fishing coincide nicely with most people’s vacation schedule, starting in mid-April and winding down in the fall. Two-hour whale watching tours take place between December and April, and passengers can generally spot whales “up close and personal” within 15 to 20 minutes from boarding the boat.
Safety is always Tim’s primary concern. The Sea Hawk carries Coast Guard approved safety equipment and is a fully-insured, Coast Guard Certified Charter Boat. He is very proud of his seasoned crew. “I have a deckhand who has been with me for 16 years. I don’t think anyone else on the harbor can say that” he smiles.
Many of Tim’s customers are repeats, and reservations are essential during the peak of the fishing season. It’s always wise to check with Tim on any current changes to Fish and Game closures. Specialty charters, group charters, school or non-profit field trips and burials at sea are available.
All Aboard Adventures.
32410 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg.
The Wisdom of Experience.
Telstar Charters has been in business doing fishing trips out of Fort Bragg since 1997. Owner Charan Thornton and the crew of the Telstar have a multitude of experience fishing and navigating these waters.
The Telstar is available for fishing trips for salmon, ling cod, rock cod, albacore, halibut
Charan, her son Captain Sean, and the whole crew of the Telstar are exceptional in providing passengers with
Telstar Charters will provide you with the ultimate Fishing or Whale Watching experience. Charan’s and Sean’s top priority is to
32390 N. Harbor Dr., Noyo Harbor
The Princess of Seafood.
Everyone knows girls rock, but the all-woman crew at Princess Seafood rocks cod, salmon and crab. Princess Seafood sells sustainably caught fish, sold individually, by the pound or by the
Princess Seafood is the brainchild of Heather Sears, who began trolling with her father at a young age and got her first boat at age 21. Today, Captain Heather and her crew offer wholesale and retail sashimi grade king salmon, coho salmon, albacore tuna, lingcod, rockfish and Blackcod available as steaks, fillets and even smoked. Live Dungeness crab
The princesses sell fish at the Ukiah Natural Foods Coop, at the Fort Bragg, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, and Sebastopol Farmers Markets and off their boat in Noyo Harbor. Additionally, Heather has opened up the Princess Seafood Market and Deli, located at Noyo Harbor. Along with their specialty—sashimi grade, sustainably wild caught, west coast seafood—Heather and partner Wendy Holloway will be adding a small healthy menu featuring local-caught fish, along with local beer and wine.
32140 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg
Hooking Up With Mendo.
Justin Widler of Hooked on Mendo has spent a lifetime on the ocean with his uncle, who was a mover and shaker who helped develop Fort Bragg’s charter fishing industry. Since that time, Justin has become the captain of his own boat, the Samurai, a 32-footer capable of holding 1,000 pounds of fish in its refrigerated hold.
Justin offers a number of sport fishing trips, including an all-day salmon and rockfish combo, which on a lucky day can bring home about 40 pounds of fish to the lucky angler. Half-day salmon and rockfish trips are available, as well as Dungeness crab trips during crab season. As a multi-purpose charter boat, Justin is happy to customize the Samurai to suit your fishing needs.
For those who love the challenge of catching your own fish, Justin offers a special experience for rockfish anglers, using rods and reels that offer sport fishers a memorable opportunity to keep the “sport” in sport fishing. Justin and his crew also offer whale watching, and as seasoned divers, they are happy to help you plan the perfect diving expedition.
Hooked on Mendo.
32390 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg