Fresh-Caught Fish Offered by Sacramento Fisherman

Anthony Ferrari fishes from one of three boats. Photo courtesy of Ferrari Fisheries
Anthony Ferrari fishes from one of three boats. Photo courtesy of Ferrari Fisheries

Ferrari Fisheries is a small operation that strives for sustainable fishing for smaller market.

Seated at his dinner table in picturesque Venice, Anthony Ferrari scans the menu and considers his options. “Spigola, which is a sea bass, is the popular option in Italy. But if there’s local octopus, I’ll always go for that,” he says.

A Legacy of Fishing

If he weren’t on vacation in Italy, chances are Ferrari would be eating a fish he caught from one of three boats: China Doll, Spellbound, or Florinda. “I like Spellbound because it’s the biggest and most comfortable,” he explains. “Florinda is my dad’s. He’s owned that one since before I was born.”

Ferrari holds a couple of rockfish. Photo by Chris Floyd

His father is now a business partner in Ferrari’s fishery business, but nearly four decades ago, the elder Ferrari taught his son to fish. Growing up near Sacramento, Ferrari says they would motor out on the boat in nearby waters to cast their lines when he was as young as 9 years old. “We’d go out to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco when I was off of school and later in life, when it was off season,” says Ferrari. “Off season” in this case isn’t a reference to the fishing season, but rather baseball.

From Baseball to Full-Time Fisherman

Ferrari previously played professional baseball, not only in the United States but also on a league in, of all places, Italy. “After I retired from baseball, I started fishing full time,” he explains. “About three years ago, during the pandemic, the market really slowed down. I knew people still wanted to eat fish so I gave it a shot and opened my business.”

Roadside stand marking Ferrari Fishery.
Roadside stand marking Ferrari Fishery. Photo by Chris Floyd

Ferrari Fisheries in West Sacramento now serves fresh catch to around 10 California restaurants, including Localis, Brasserie du Monde, Allora, and Cacio, as well as middlemen who distribute the fish to other locations. Though he focuses on black cod and red snapper — also referred to as “rockfish” — Ferrari diversifies his offerings with help from his father and friends. “We aren’t fishing in the same places so we’re not competing,” he says.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

If he’s selling to a big market, Ferrari aims to catch up to 10,000 pounds of fish. That volume requires boating six to eight hours away from land. Assuming he finds child care, Ferrari will first check the weather, then leave home before the sun comes up. After a full day of fishing, he will plan to count sheep from the boat cabin. But typically, he aims for a smaller load of higher value fish, which he can catch closer by in less time. “Live fish, they’re the most profitable,” he explains.

Though the weekly catch limit is generally between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds of fish, a larger volume of catch is usually permitted in the month April.

Ferrari Fishery_Cooler packed with ice to keep fish cold
Cooler packed with ice to keep fish cold

Unlike large scale commercial fishing operations, Ferrari is very intentional about what he plucks from the sea. Where massive vessels cast long drag nets that inadvertently snare and kill unwanted fish, known as bycatch, Ferrari uses a traditional baited hook and line.

He says fishing in California involves numerous regulations, including monitors to alert him if he gets too close to a conservation area. Some vessels have state observers on board. “It’s a good thing, I think, to prevent overfishing and keep things sustainable,” he shares.

Freshly filleted fish. Photo by Chris Floyd
Freshly filleted fish. Photo by Chris Floyd

To long line fish for black cod requires a two-person crew, one to navigate and the other to set the gear. “One has to steady the line — sometimes there’s one mile of line. As the boat moves, the line lays on the floor,” he says.

Fishing the ocean floor with a large hook once caught him an unlikely catch. About a decade ago, he pulled in a rock that was much larger than the ones he occasionally snags. “Something was different about it,” he recalls. “I untangled it and took some pictures of it because it didn’t have any growth or barnacles on it and it was smooth and all white. I ended up throwing it back overboard. Turns out that a marine biologist saw a picture of it and told me he thinks it’s a big bone from a woolly mammoth from thousands of years ago. I wish I would have kept it to see if that was true or not.”

Ferrari once caught what may have been a fossil. Photo courtesy of Ferrari Fisheries
Ferrari once caught what may have been a fossil. Photo courtesy of Ferrari Fisheries

When it comes to sales of fish — not fossils — Ferrari says he prefers smaller buyers. Corporate buyers, he says, pay pennies on the dollar for large amounts of fish, then charge quadruple or more to the consumer. “The fishermen aren’t the ones getting rich off that,” he says. “If I’m more selective about who I sell to, I can catch less fish and make a higher profit. It just makes sense.”

Customers flock to buy the fresh catch. Photo by Chris Floyd
Customers flock to buy the fresh catch. Photo by Chris Floyd

Family Ties

Today, Ferrari’s 83-year-old father supports the business through supplemental fish and deliveries from time to time. But the skill he learned alongside his father many years ago not only helps pay the bills, but continues to excite him. “And we get to see each other a lot more than I think we would otherwise,” he says.

Yes, the work can be dangerous, but Ferrari says the variety and volume of fish he pursues prevent any serious risks to his life. “Weather or a pipe leak that fills the boat up with water … getting in and out of the harbor with a high tide, those are the real threats,” he says. And playing it safe is especially important for someone with family waiting for him back at home.

Ferrari stands with a fresh-caught black cod. Photo by Chris Floyd
Ferrari stands with a fresh-caught black cod. Photo by Chris Floyd

While teaching a man to fish may, as the adage goes, truly feeds him for a lifetime, the same isn’t necessarily true for the fisherman’s wife. “She doesn’t like seafood, which is obviously ironic,” Ferrari jokes. “We can go to Michelin star restaurants, and even then, she won’t eat it. I don’t get tired of it. I love it, especially when it’s local.”