Posts Tagged monterey

Jun 5 2017

Flashback, Phil Bowhay: A fish story, with calamari on the side

(Vern Fisher – Monterey Herald file)


Back in the good old days we fished for food and fun, and had plenty of both. During World War II, when most good things to eat were rationed, we did just fine with clams, abalone and crab. Our Monterey friends fed the world with sardines, squid, and anchovies, and anything else scooped from the ocean with those beautiful purse seiners. First, second or third generation from the “old country,” they were born knowing how to fish.

What a treat now to talk to some of the old timers that worked all the way from the Bering Sea to Central America. No wonder King Crab is so expensive.

They mended their nets on Wharf 1 and 2, but mostly on Fisherman’s Flat across from Tarpy’s. Back then it was Cadematori’s, and Cadematori’s used to be on Pacific Street, but that’s another story.

You don’t have to scratch very deep to find a Billeci, Lucido, Ferante. Anastasi, Aliotio or a dozen others to tell you stories about themselves or their folks. It helps if their name ends in a vowel. One very good thing is that knowing how to cook has been passed down and happily shared. Try Favaloro’s in Pacific Grove. I’m an expert on calamari and theirs is the best on the Peninsula.

There was always a kid or two in Pacific Grove walking down to Lovers Point, a beat up rod in one hand and gunny sack in the other. (These burlap bags were passed along from father to son. They smelled of old fish and were kept outside.)

At the P.G. pier we would rent a skiff from Sprague, complete with a big granite rock anchor, and a piece of wood for cutting bait, all for four bits. Row out a half mile or so, lines in the water, and usually wind up with a sack of sand dabs. If we drifted over a rocky bottom, maybe a lingcod. Then sometimes a sliver smelt, and even a salmon!

Great sport off Wharf 2 when the mackerel were running. Didn’t even have bait the hook. We didn’t really appreciate mackerel in those days and one fish per rose bush worked out just right. Since then, with fewer mackerel around, we find they are delicious. Olive oil, garlic and tomato sauce.

And then there’s time Dad went out with Tom and a couple of other guys, hoping for salmon. Caught a big shark instead. Good luck since there was a big demand for shark liver. This shark was unhappy with the situation and knocked Tom on his butt.

Dad, for some unknown reason, had a pistol with him, and shot the shark in the head. This further upset the shark which then, still thrashing, puked. Further description unnecessary, but with some difficulty, shark over the side, liver be damned. Further enhancing the experience was the bullet hole in the bottom of the boat. Some days are like that.

And one more thing, the calamari at the Beach House, perfect. Then there’s Marty’s Special at Abalonettis …

“Good grief,” they shout, “Stop him!”

Nov 15 2015

Letters: Plentiful anchovies far from collapse

Plentiful anchovies far from collapse

I’ve been fishing for more than 50 years up and down the West Coast and I’m shocked at all the hysterical claims I’ve read in the media recently about the anchovy “collapse.” Much of the hype stemmed from an anchovy study still in peer review, but the truth of the matter is that its conclusions are disastrously wrong!

I’m one of a handful of fishermen who fish anchovy in Monterey. I’m on the water nearly every day and I’ve seen a big surge in the anchovy population in recent years. Anchovies now stretch from the “pinheads” fishermen see in Southern California all the way up the coast past Half Moon Bay, where a large group of whales was recently spotted feeding on anchovies.

Our fishery simply skims the surface of anchovy schools that often run hundreds of feet deep. The allowed anchovy harvest is limited at 25,000 tons, leaving 75 percent of the biomass in the ocean as forage. Bottom line: There are plenty of anchovies in the sea.

I hope sanity prevails when the Pacific Council meets to decide the fate of the few Monterey fishermen who need to fish anchovy to pay our bills.

— Aniello Guglielmo, Camarillo


Jun 29 2015

Book shows Monterey’s fishing, Italian history go hand in hand

MikeMike Ventimiglia talks about “Italians of the Monterey Peninsula” at the site where a plaque marks the approximate spot of his great uncle Salvatore Ventimiglia’s cannery on Cannery Row. (Vern Fisher — Monterey Herald)


MONTEREY >> The story of Italians in Monterey is the story of the local fishing industry.

Sicilians came here in waves in the early 1900s when a shift to sardine fishing required their special know-how. They kept Fisherman’s Wharf stocked and the canneries humming for nearly 50 years, turning Monterey into a boom town and establishing a cultural legacy that stands today.

Author Mike Ventimiglia chronicles their history in the recently published book “Italians of the Monterey Peninsula,” part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. He will give a slide-illustrated talk and book signing at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Monterey Public Library.

Italian fishermen built on a foundation laid by Chinese immigrants, who commercialized fishing in Monterey Bay in the mid-1800s. Over half a century, squid and abalone gave way to salmon and sardines. When a Sicilian fisherman named Pietro Ferrante introduced lampara nets here, allowing for a bigger catch of sardines, the industry took off, sparking what came to be known as the Silver Harvest. Italian fishing families who had set up in Pittsburg, Martinez and other points north started flocking to the Monterey Peninsula.

Ventimiglia’s family was among them, moving here from Martinez in 1917. His father and uncles were fishermen, and his great uncle would eventually own a cannery here, near the present-day Monterey Bay Inn.

Two things were important to Italian fishermen, Ventimiglia said: their boats and their families.

“A fishing boat was probably the mainstay of most Italians,” he said. “The boats came before the house.”

The industry was on its way out by the time Ventimiglia was born in 1944, so his earliest memories of his father are not of him fishing on the Vagabond, but dealing cards on lower Alvarado Street.

Still, the feeling of a close-knit community ran deep.

“(My dad) was Sicilian, but he never spoke it in the house or around his children,” Ventimiglia said. “Then I would go down to the wharf with him and all of a sudden he’d start sputtering this weird language.”

Ventimiglia notes that Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf are still a major part of Monterey’s economy, with the emphasis now on tourism instead of fishing. He gives Italians credit for turning from fishermen into business owners.

“They were smart enough to switch gears,” he said.

Ventimiglia spent a year researching and writing the book. The hardest part, he said, was collating the hundreds of photos that are hallmarks of Arcadia books.

“I can get all the pictures of Italians in the world, but who are they?” he said “… I wanted to identify as many Italians as I could in the book, and that was the hard thing to get.”

The book covers Italians’ move to Monterey, the canneries, fishing boats and nets, and Santa Rosalia and other traditions. It has sparked another project to collect and publish a series of mini biographies of local Italians.

“To me what’s important is getting a piece of history out there,” Ventimiglia said.

Read the original post and view the video:

Jun 27 2015

Mackerel school in Monterey harbor; city tech protect them from suffocation.


These Pacific mackerel are swimming inside a Monterey Bay Aquarium tank, unlike their wild kin now schooling in Monterey Harbor.   — Merve Girgin Yanar


Steve Scheiblauer keeps a photo in his office of a bunch of dead sardines. As framed desktop photos go, it’s a bit macabre compared with the more standard child’s school portrait. But in its own way, Scheiblauer’s photo is feel-good, too.

It was October 1996, and Scheiblauer was less than a year into his job as Monterey harbormaster when thousands of sardine carcasses started floating up in the marina.

The walls of Fishermans Wharf, the commercial wharf and the harborfront connecting them form a three-sided enclosure, Scheiblauer explains. When fish school there, they become vulnerable because the tides don’t bring much fresh oxygen.

“This is not really unusual for harbor structures,” Scheiblauer says. “I basically knew what was happening and how to solve it, which was these aeration machines.”

Scheiblauer convinced Monterey City Council to approve a system of 15 aerators, at a cost of about $100,000, which was installed in early 1997. Since then, he says, the aerators have helped keep visiting schools of fish (mostly sardines) alive.

Nearly 20 years since that sardine die-off, Monterey Harbor is again hosting a visiting school of fish. In an unusual twist, the school is about 80-percent mackerel, Scheiblauer says, and only 20-percent sardines.

Two days ago, he had the aerators turned on.

Here’s the underwater GoPro video his employee, A.J. Young, recorded late yesterday afternoon. With the aerators blasting out fresh oxygen, it’ll hopefully be a pleasant visit for the fish.

Read the original post: Monterey County Weekly

Jan 28 2015

California sea lions in trouble

sealionsIn mid-December, when moms were raising pups down south, 700-pound males hauled out onto the Moss Landing Harbor visitor dock. One fell asleep with its face in the water. (Leslie Willoughby Contributed) right).

MOSS LANDING — When baby sea lions are healthy, the curious and bright-eyed creatures sit up on their front flippers and take in the world around them. When humans approach, they skedaddle and leave nothing behind except a fishy, musky smell.

But along the Central Coast, sea lion pups in recent years increasingly have been found stranded — and they’re down to skin and bones. “Sometimes they could barely lift their heads, and they were reluctant to move, even when approached,” said Claire Simeone, a conservation medicine veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. “I could see the outlines of their hipbones and their shoulders.”

Even in a good year, a sea lion pup has only a 70 percent chance of reaching its first birthday. But in 2013 only 30 percent survived. And by May of that year, almost 1,500 were stranded along the California coast — up to 10 per day along the Monterey Bay shoreline.

To marine biologists, the deaths were the clearest sign yet that California sea lions, whose numbers skyrocketed for decades, are now smacking up against the limits of their environment.

The stranded pups should have been with their mothers, but the mothers apparently couldn’t get enough nutrition to support them, said Sharon Melin, a researcher with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

One reason was that the California Current, which flows south along the coast, moved farther offshore, making sardines and anchovies less available. Working harder to find food, the moms ate more market squid and rockfish, Melin said, and this change in diet may have reduced the quality of their milk.

The number of pups rescued from Sausalito to San Luis Obispo by the Marine Mammal Center, which has a facility in Moss Landing, jumped from 35 in 2012 to 111 in 2013. And last year that number increased to more than 239.

“We’re seeing another year of low weight and small body size,” Melin said. “We’re telling everyone to brace for more sea lion pups on your beaches.”

Although California sea lions have never been considered endangered, they have been hunted throughout history. Early Californians killed them for food; in the mid-19th century the mammals were hunted for their oil and hides. And from the 1930s to 1950s, they were turned into pet food.

According to UC Santa Cruz scientists, the Montrose Chemical Corp. from 1949 to 1970 manufactured DDT and dumped thousands of tons of the insecticide residue through sewage outfalls near the Channel Islands, the main sea lion breeding area in the U.S. During the late 1960s, scientists found hundreds of premature sea lion pups at the islands, and one year half of all pups died. Tests showed that moms that miscarried their pups had at least eight times more DDT in their tissue than did moms that gave birth to fully developed pups.

Two key events, however, soon improved the sea lions’ fate.

Montrose stopped releasing DDT into the breeding area in 1970, and two years later Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The number of pups, which had hovered around 11,000 during the mid-1970s, doubled by 1993 and exploded to 60,000 by 2009, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

But the population is now leveling off.

Anticipating more starving pups this winter, the Marine Mammal Center has been ordering medications and training rescue volunteers, Simeone said.

In addition to the pups, the center rescued 180 adult sea lions in 2013 and 420 last year. Some were afflicted by hookworm or another parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which is carried by cats. Others had contracted diseases such as leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects their kidneys. And some were poisoned by a nerve toxin called domoic acid, which is found in increasingly widespread blooms of a particular type of algae, according to NOAA. Sea lions eat fish that eat the algae.

Domoic acid also sickens humans if they eat shellfish that have eaten the toxic algae. When the Marine Mammal Center finds sea lions poisoned by domoic acid, the staff works with health departments to locate the algae and ban people from collecting shellfish nearby.

Marine scientists say that sea lions are the ocean’s canaries in a coal mine. “They tell us so much about the health of the ocean,” Simeone said.

Many fishermen and harbormasters, however, aren’t as enamored with the species.

“If sea lions are around, a salmon sports fisherman doesn’t stand a chance,” said Roger Thomas, the president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association. “A sea lion will tear a fish right off the line and the angler is left with just a head.”

Thomas has been involved in recreational salmon fishing since he started in Monterey Bay in the 1950s. He has observed the sea lion population boom and wonders whether that may be contributing to pup strandings, he said.

At Moss Landing Harbor, the 700-pound mammals cause roughly $100,000 damage each year, said Linda McIntyre, the harbor’s general manager.

Between 200 and 2,000 sea lions vie for dock space around Monterey Harbor, said Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer. One year they sank five vessels.

When someone tries to get to a boat, the animals usually move out of the way, but they leave vomit and excrement behind. And, he said, because there are so many of them, they are entering places they would ordinarily avoid.

“Most people love the sea lions and want to protect them,” Scheiblauer said. But when he thinks about their future, he said, “I worry that nature will take its course through disease and famine. That would be a tragedy for the animals.”

Read original post Contra Costa Times.

Dec 8 2014

Squid harvest has been bountiful in Monterey Bay


Fans of calamari have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

The squid fishery in California remains robust, and this year’s catch has been unusually strong in Monterey Bay. In a typical season only about 20 percent of market squid are caught off Northern California. But this squid season – which runs from April to March – more than half of the state’s catch have come from north and central coast waters.

“We really had quite a banner year,” said Monterey harbormaster Stephen Scheiblauer.

By initial estimates, at least 75 percent of the northern California squid catch came from waters in and around Monterey Bay. Scientists and squid fishermen do not fully understand the reason for this flip.

“For Monterey, it was amazing,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association.

There have been other seasons where northern California outshone southern California in squid hauls. But, since 1980, all of those years have preceded or fallen during El Nino climate shifts, which bring warm water to the California coast, starting with southern California and moving north. It’s believed squid follow the cooler water.

“These squid really respond to ocean conditions,” said Pleschner-Steele.

The state is not currently in an El Nino pattern. But, it is possible that recent El Nino-like shifts in ocean conditions drove market squid further north.

“The last couple of years, especially in northern California, have been good for squid,” said Neil Guglielmo, captain of the 70-foot fishing vessel Triumphal.

Since squid season began April 1, commercial boats have hauled nearly 60,000 tons of market squid through northern California ports, with a dock value of approximately $38.3 million. This is the largest squid season north of Point Conception in history and more than double the previous record set in the 2002-2003 season. This year, Eureka reported its first squid landings.

“We fished squid this year where we never fished before,” said Guglielmo.

For much of this season, Guglielmo took the Triumphal from its home port near Ventura up the coast to Monterey and points further north to haul in squid. He reported squid as far north as Crescent City.

“We just followed them up there,” said Guglielmo. “There was so much squid.”

This season was also a record for Monterey Bay, with an estimated 45,000 tons of squid caught in its waters, according to marine biologist Briana Brady with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

These record hauls also bring welcome economic benefits to ports. The local squid industry supports approximately 1,500 seasonal and full-time jobs, according to Scheiblauer. Ten squid fishing boats are based in Moss Landing and Monterey. In addition to landing fees at wharfs and the dock value of catches, the squid season brings economic benefits in the form of room and board for crew, fuel for boats, ice, cold storage facilities, transportation and processing for each boat’s catch. The Monterey area includes three resident buyers for squid.

“They’re still a big part of our culture and economy,” Scheiblauer said.

Ample food supplies and undisturbed spawning grounds help sustain market squid along the California coast. But, based on past squid fishing seasons, their numbers can still fluctuate along 10-15 year cycles, according to Brady.

Market squid are relatively small, often measuring about a foot in length, and prefer to eat small invertebrates, plankton or each other. Their short 6-10 month lifespan makes it difficult for biologists to estimate the size of the entire market squid population off of California to manage the fishery sustainably.

Instead, beginning in the last decade, regulators crafted a squid fishery management policy around a handful of core regulations. No more than 118,000 tons of squid can be harvested in California waters during the annual season. This limit was based off of annual squid harvests in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We’re happy with that maximum cap,” said Pleschner-Steele. “It’s a good, conservative number.”

The state also uses a limited-entry permit system for squid fishing to control the number of fishing boats in California waters. In addition, marine protected areas in southern California and Monterey Bay keep approximately one-third of squid spawning grounds along the coast off limits to fishing. Finally, no commercial vessel may fish for squid between noon Friday and noon Sunday. This weekly moratorium gives squid in non-protected areas opportunities to spawn, according to Scheiblauer.

As of Nov. 20, the statewide catch for market squid is nearly 115,000 tons. Since the maximum squid harvest cannot exceed 118,000 tons, this season is drawing to an early close. Under a voluntary co-management agreement between the squid fishing industry and Fish and Wildlife, larger fishing vessels ceased harvesting squid last month so smaller boats can “mop up” the remaining allotment of squid.

Based on reports from squid fishermen, this year there will still be plenty of squid left behind. But, in the wake of this season’s unusual squid bounty for northern California, no one is willing to predict what might be in store for next year. In two previous El Nino cycles, desolate squid harvests in northern California followed one or two years of largesse.

“You could have a boom year like this year and next year there’ll be nothing,” said Scheiblauer.

But, even after those turbulent oscillations, the squid fishery stabilized around a sustainable mean. That long-term trend gives others cause for cautious optimism.

“If the water doesn’t go crazy,” said Guglielmo, “I think we’ll be fine.”

James Urton can be reached at 726-4453.

Read original article here.

Dec 2 2014

Monterey historic boat could get new purpose

gp1Built by Sicilian born boatbuilder Angelo Siinno in Monterey around 1927-1930, the General Pershing may be repurposed into a classroom on the bay.
David Royal — Monterey Herald

The Siino family has contributed a lot to the history of Monterey and their latest idea could give back even more.

They said this week they are aiming to turn the largest boat Sicilian-born Angelo Siino, one of Monterey’s most famous shipbuilders, ever crafted into an educational tool.

The General Pershing boat is roughly 60 feet long, 15 feet wide and was built around 1927 at Monterey Boatworks and used to film “Captains Courageous” in 1937 and other films. It is still seaworthy.

“Our goal is to make it back to being useful for the heritage of Monterey. We’re calling it Classroom on the Bay. We want it to be a teaching vessel,” said Siino’s granddaughter, Janet Martinez, 68, of Aromas.

Martinez said they need help restoring the lampara boat, which she estimates could reach up to $150,000. They have been repainting it for the last three weeks.

She said they hope to partner with a nonprofit or get grants to accomplish their vision.

In the meantime, she has written a book called “Master Boat Builders of Italy.” Revenue from sales will be used for the project.

Given the boat was built during the heyday of the sardine industry, she said students could be taught the history of Monterey aboard, as well as modern classes about the ecology of the Bay.

Angelo Siino moved to the United States from Sicily in 1903 and to Monterey in 1914. He died in 1956.

He built 15 boats from scratch and did it without blueprints, Martinez said.

“To this day, I don’t know how they did it,” she said.

He taught his craft to sons, Raymond and Frank, who became celebrated ship builders.

The General’s original owner was Neno DiMaggio, cousin to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, who named it after Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, the World War I figure under whom Neno DiMaggio served.

It eventually ended up in San Francisco under the ownership of fisherman Frank Watada. He gave it back to the Siino family in 2003.

The General hit the news in 2008 when a colony of seabirds called Brand’s cormorant took up residence on it and required U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists to get them out.

Martinez can be found at Boatworks most days painting the boat but can also be reached at


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Apr 24 2014

Lowly squid tops king salmon as Monterey’s top cash fishery

More than 6 percent of California’s seafood haul comes from the Monterey area, a region with a deep history of commercial fishing. Last year, catches of the humble squid generated about twice as much cash as the kingly chinook salmon.

We’ve crunched the numbers to rank the top 10 commercial fisheries in the coastal fringes of Silicon Valley, which you can peruse below.


Bryce Druzin
Reporter- Silicon Valley Business Journal

View the original article here.

Jan 16 2014

As sardines vanish from Southern California coastal waters, fishermen rely on squid and anchovy

Seafood News
Larry Derr was as prepared as any longtime Southern California bait fisherman for the disappearance of the Pacific sardines he has pulled up by the ton since the 1980s.

He can fish anchovies instead and, if those become scarce, there’s been a local surge in market squid to keep him in business.

But the fickle sardines have been so abundant for so many years – sometimes holding court as the most plentiful fish in coastal waters – that it was a shock when he couldn’t find one of the shiny silver- blue coastal fish all summer, even though this isn’t the first time they’ve vanished.

And the similar, but smaller, anchovies have proven a poor replacement since sardines became scarce. Fortunately, a boom in market squid has propelled Derr and other coastal pelagic fishers.

In three days of nighttime fishing last week, Derr barely cleared a measly 20 scoops of anchovies to sell.

“A couple days ago we caught a ton of anchovies,” Derr said, keeping a vigilant eye for the telltale red mass on the In-Seine’s sonar during a predawn hunt Saturday. The screen remained black with irregularly dispersed green dots representing schools too small to fish. “We want this to be solid red.”

Though sardines aren’t as valuable as tuna or rockfish, they’re an important food source for larger fish, marine mammals like sea lions, dolphins and whales, and sea birds that can spot them from the air and dive for them.

Some have attributed recent rashes of sea lion pup and pelican deaths to the sardine population decline, which began a few years ago and was officially recognized in December when the fishing quota was dropped to just 5,446 metric tons for all of California, Oregon and Washington from January to June. In the same time period last year, the quota was 18,073 metric tons.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council lowered the quota in November after years of sardine stock decline from 2006, when 1.4 million tons were estimated to be swimming around the north Pacific. This year, their numbers are believed to be less than 400,000 metric tons.

Read the full article here.

Dec 24 2013

California fishers say quota system is all wet

The skipper of a fishing boat that has trawled Monterey Harbor for decades says he’s been docked since spring, unable to earn a living.

Jiri Nozicka says a federal quota system enacted to protect both fish and the commercial fishing industry has problems that he can’t navigate.

“How do I plan anything?” he asked, recently standing on the deck of the San Giovanni. “I can’t. It’s impossible.”

He’s not alone in criticizing the “catch shares” system and calling for changes. Commercial fishers, industry experts and government officials are among those who say that while fish populations are recovering, too few people in California are benefiting from that rebound in part because there aren’t enough qualified monitors to oversee the program.

“Financially, I can only say that multiple trips have been cancelled due to a lack of availability of these monitors, millions of pounds of fish have not been caught, processed and sold to markets and this is a loss of millions of dollars,” said Michael Lucas, president of North Coast Fisheries Inc., in a letter to federal regulators.

After Pacific Coast groundfish populations dropped dramatically in 2000 a federal economic disaster was declared, leading to the strict new quota system. The goal was to boost populations of black cod and dover sole and to revive the flagging industry.

Read the full article here.