Brendan Pini, Fished & Foraged
Fisherman & Fishmonger
Brendan Pini is co-founder of Fished & Foraged, a Santa Cruz based company that provides fish from the Monterey Bay and mushrooms from the Santa Cruz mountains to local restaurants and markets. He grew up in a tiny town without a stoplight in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The outdoors, fishing in particular, were his passion. “Every pond, river, lake, I’d fish,” he said. “There wasn’t much else to do out there.”
His grandfather was chief of police in Santa Cruz, so Brendan visited the harbor every summer and dreamed of one day fishing for a living. When he turned 18, he moved to Santa Cruz and worked on charter boats that took anglers out for salmon and rockfish. He saved his money and bought his own boat and fished commercially for open access fish like halibut, ling cod, and sand dabs with hook-and-line gear.
He graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Biology with a focus on fisheries. Then he went back to fishing full time. When he saved enough money from fishing open access, he bought a salmon permit. He spends the dry summer months in his boat Mycelium, trolling for salmon and catching open access fish with hook-n-line. Late fall through winter, salmon fishing is closed, and many of the other fisheries slow down except sand dabs. So, Brendan goes out for sand dabs a few days a week and takes to the woods on the other days where he hunts wild mushrooms.
“I’ll go as far north as Oregon or deep into the Sierras following the burns for morels,” he said. “But most of the time, I’m picking about 100 miles from Santa Cruz.” Most of his catch -- that with fins and spores -- goes to local restaurants and buyers, who value local wild food with no air miles that provides a connection to the changing seasons. “Being in nature is very therapeutic,” Brendan said. “And I love the adventure. I never know if the day is going to bring a bumper crop of chanterelles or a wide-open sea bass bite.”