Fished and Foraged offers local flavors straight from the source
By Neal Kearney
Local surf icon Jason “Ratboy” Collins is known across the globe for his buttery blend of aerial surfing, tube riding and rail-work. These days, however, he’s more likely to be found at sea fishing than surfing.
Frustrated with having to use an intermediate supplier to push his bounty, Collins, along with his fellow commercial fishermen and foraging enthusiast Brendan Pini, started their own business, Fished and Foraged, in November 2016. Their combined knowledge and skill offers the local community a way to enjoy the local wild fish, mushrooms and greens that the pair loves to hunt so much.
Collins began fishing as preteen off the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf with his father and recently, after a long and successful surfing career, returned to this other favorite endeavor, monetizing his efforts as a commercial fisherman. “As I got older I began enjoying fishing more than surfing,” Collins admits, which is not a shock considering the outrageously clogged lineups that have turned off many hardcore surfers.
Pini, a fellow commercial fisherman and boat owner, has also spent a good portion of his life hiking in and around the Santa Cruz Mountains. Around 10 years ago he become fascinated with the study of mushrooms (or “mycology”) and how to forage for them. “I have been studying and hunting mushrooms along the Central Coast for 10 years now and I still turn into a little kid every time I am out in the woods,” says Pini.
After kicking the idea around on the docks after fishing, the two friends realized there wasn’t a sustainable food service in town that included their unique blend of oceanic and earthly products—and Fished and Foraged was born.
Santa Cruz is a very special and fruitful place for seafood and wild mushrooms. The coastal upwelling (cold water from the bottom of the ocean coming to the surface) creates plankton blooms, which attract baitfish and a multitude of other fish species. The fairly temperate Mediterranean climate provides a diverse array of forest ecosystems, each with their own mushroom species.
On land, Pini and Collins harvest wild mushrooms like chanterelles, morels, candy caps and black trumpets (just to name a few), as well as miner’s lettuce, nettles, watercress and other found edibles. Their seafood offerings include California halibut, lingcod, king salmon, white sea bass, rockfish, sand dabs, albacore, crab, prawns, among other species.
Regardless of if they are foraging or fishing, their days start early and can last well into the night. Their hunt of the day is contingent on the season and weather conditions.
“Where I go depends on water conditions, experience, seasonality, feed present and reports from a group of other fisherman I work with,” says Pini. “For foraging it is similar, only I take into account tree species, temperatures, time of year and elevation. In reality, there is not really a typical day out fishing or foraging, [which] is why I enjoy it so much.”
The duo strives to offload their catch fresh each day, with fish put directly on ice after harvesting. Immediacy is also imperative for the foraged goods, as mushrooms have an extremely short shelf life. Products are delivered directly to customers or are available for sale off the boat in the Santa Cruz Municipal Harbor, and used by local companies such as Ristorante Avanti, La Posta, Lilian’s, H&H Fresh Fish, Harbor Pride, the Fish Lady, Santa Cruz Salmon Jerky and New Leaf Community Markets in Felton.
Collins thinks the company’s emphasis on sustainability and freshness helps Fished and Foraged stand out. He explains that they use hook-and-line fishing methods, which have little to no by catch and are considered more environmentally responsible. “All of our fish are caught with hook-and-line method, rod and reel, or trolling with downriggers, which eliminates lots of by-catch,” says Collins. “We basically have zero bycatch, and if we do have something we don’t want to or can’t keep we return back to the ocean live 99 percent of the time.”
For Pini, it’s also the wildness of the offerings that makes Fished and Foraged unique. “When you think about it, both of these foods are the last real undomesticated things humans consume,” he says. “The health benefits and flavor profiles are unique, which is something you cannot find in farm-raised fish or mushrooms.”
Learn more at fishedandforaged.com.