All Aboard for Adventure!
For Captain Tim Gillespie, Fort Bragg native and owner of All Aboard Adventures, the ocean has been his lifelong passion and livelihood.
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 and bait. “We don’t sell fishing licenses, but they are available nearby and at the tackle store here at the harbor,” says Tim. Most trips take about five hours, but longer trips can be arranged. “Generally, in 25 to 30 minutes, you’re fishing,” he smiles.
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 are 15 inches and sea trout are keepable at 12 inches.” There is a limit of two salmon, 10 rockfish and 1 lingcod per licensee.
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.