When Jerry Willett got out of the Air Force in the late 1960s, commercial fishing was one of the last things on his mind. He moved up to Trinidad, California, and started just enjoying life, sport fishing for salmon daily in a 14-foot skiff.
In a community like Trinidad, however, it was inevitable that he come into contact with commercial salmon fishermen, who pointed out that he could just as easily be selling his catch – in those days, there were no limited entry permits required, all Captain Willett needed to do was buy an inexpensive commercial fishing license (his boat was so small it did not need a commercial registration).
Forty-some years later, Captain Willett is still at it. Like other commercial fishermen, he enjoys being out on the ocean and being his own boss. Over the years, he has fished for salmon, Dungeness crab, albacore, and rockfish. In addition, he has worked as a crewman on trawl vessels, fishing for halibut, sole and rockfish, and also spent a few years fishing for squid, anchovies and sardines on the F/V Ocean Angel, both as crewman and as light boat operator.
Captain Willett is married to Emily, they have three children, two daughters and a son.
Today Captain Willett owns the F/V Emmy Lou, a 25-foot fiberglass Sportcraft Boat which he uses to fish for halibut, white sea bass and live rockfish.
Walk out to the end of the historic Harford Pier the next time you’re in Port San Luis at Avila Beach. If you’re lucky, you might see Captain Willett there, unloading his fresh catch of the day to one of the local wholesalers.