When Faces caught up with commercial fisherman Kevin Carney, he was hard at work in the Upper Santa Cruz Harbor, brailing baitfish out of a small lampara. The limited fishery serves two purposes: providing fresh bait for both commercial and recreational fishermen and controlling the population of baitfish in the harbor (see “Anchovy Kill Problem”).
Captain Carney remembers catching his first fish when he was only three years old, sport fishing. After high school, however, the Long Island native was looking for adventure, and headed to Santa Cruz to visit an old friend. When he arrived, it was 1988, California’s commercial salmon fishermen were enjoying a boom year and it was no problem for the youngster to get a job as a deckhand. Before long, Carney realized that he loved the lifestyle, particularly the challenges and general lack of routine, which he found in commercial fishing.
In the ensuing years, Carney crewed on salmon troll vessels in both California and Alaska, as well as on trawlers, seiners and crabbers. Eventually he saved enough to purchase his own small seiner, the 26-foot wooden F/V Vita Marie, a classic Monterey clipper built in the early 1930s in Sausalito.
Captain Carney is married to Summer; they have two children: Ava, who turned six on the day we interviewed him, and her younger sister, Scarlett. When he’s not fishing, he enjoys spending his free time with his family.
Although his catch inside the Santa Cruz Harbor is restricted to bait use only, outside the harbor Captain Carney targets anchovies, sardines, pompano, jack smelt and kingfish, all of which are available through Far West Marine in Santa Cruz.
Look for the Vita Marie on “R” Dock in the South Harbor at Santa Cruz – it may very well be the smallest seine vessel operating in California!