Mike Ricketts, F/V Sea Hawk


Photo credit:  Trim Tab Media

Photo credit: Trim Tab Media

When Mike Ricketts was around 40 years old, he decided to quit his job as a general contractor and start commercial fishing. That was more than 40 years ago, and now at 83 Ricketts isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.

“I’m not gonna retire, I’m gonna fish until I die,” Ricketts says with a laugh. “I enjoy it, what else would I do?”

On his 34-foot fiberglass fishing boat, the Sea Hawk, Ricketts still goes solo on salmon trips, catching, cleaning and icing each Chinook that come on deck by hand. He also fishes for Dungeness crab, albacore tuna and rockfish. While the years have taken their toll, Ricketts still moves about his boat like a man decades younger. The joy he finds watching land fade on the horizon and rolling with the swell keeps him young.

Ricketts grew up in Monterey County — no relation to the famed marine biologist Ed Ricketts — and has fished in the Monterey Bay for his whole life. He’s seen a lot change over the years and has seen many fishermen hang up their hats, searching for stability away from the unpredictability of a life living off the sea.

“It’s a wonderful way to make a living, but it’s getting tougher,” he says, noting he got out of construction in the 1970s because of the regulations and red tape. “It’s hard to get enough time on the water to do what we do.” 

Yet, for his entire career commercial fishing, Ricketts has remained a steadfast champion of commercial fishermen and sustainable fisheries. He is currently the president of the Monterey Commercial Fishermen’s Association and serves as a board member of the Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries and the Pacific Federation of Commercial Fishermen Associations. 

He also encourages the next generation not to give up on a career in commercial fishing. While they’re a steep buy-in for most fisheries on the Monterey Bay, there’s a living to be made for those who can meet the initial investment.

“The opportunity is still there if you want to work hard,” Ricketts says. “If you enjoy it do it, that’s all.”