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Real Good Fish | Fishermen A-Z | | Fishermen | Bringing you the freshest sustainably caught LOCAL seafood!
“Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”
- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Kevin Butler

Kevin Butler grew up fishing and foraging up and down the California coast and ended up in Santa Cruz for the last 4 decades. He brought his fresh catches home and learned to prepare them. As a child, he preferred salmon roe and sea urchin to soda and candy, outdoors to the inside. His childhood...

Kevin Butler grew up fishing and foraging up and down the California coast and ended up in Santa Cruz for the last 4 decades. He brought his fresh catches home and learned to prepare them. As a child, he preferred salmon roe and sea urchin to soda and candy, outdoors to the inside. His childhood passions have developed into his current careers: a fisherman and chef.

He now fishes commercially for halibut, seabass, lingcod, rockfish, and sand dabs. He feels more comfortable on the water than on land. “When I go out fishing, I never have any idea how the day will work out," he said.  “But I’m away from cell phones, and land that can sometimes be claustrophobic.”

He not only sells seafood to Real Good Fish, but also works with Real Good Fish as our chef, preparing seafood for our events and doing our cooking demonstrations. He was the Executive Chef at Café Rio in Aptos, and enjoys showing people how really great local seafood can be.  “Instead of teaching or talking to people about how good fish can be, I got into showing them." If you've tried his chowder, anchovies or squid calamari at our events, you'll experience this for yourself. 

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Brendan Pini

Brendan grew up in Santa Cruz, fishing with his grandfather, and his mother. “My mom is a great steelhead fisher,” he said. “She really knows how to read a river.” He’s 27 years, old, and believes that it’s important that younger people take up the mantle and fish commercially, but he approaches...

Brendan grew up in Santa Cruz, fishing with his grandfather, and his mother. “My mom is a great steelhead fisher,” he said. “She really knows how to read a river.” He’s 27 years, old, and believes that it’s important that younger people take up the mantle and fish commercially, but he approaches it with the perspective that fishermen are stewards of the ocean. It’s no surprise that he’s also a biology student at UC Santa Cruz, and believes that fishermen and marine resource managers can work together to create a sustainable system. 

He started off working as a deckhand on charter boats out of San Francisco and Santa Cruz, and now deckhands for commercial crabbing and salmon boats out of Moss Landing. He runs his own skiff, Mysealium, out of Santa Cruz and works the open access fisheries like white sea bass, halibut, sand dabs, and ling cod. His favorite fish to eat is Petrale sole, noting the light texture and mild flavor. But he likes to fish for California halibut the best. “It’s a nice long drift, not too crowded with other boats,” he explained. “When the tide shifts and the bite turns on, it gets exciting.”

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Christian Zajac

It’s not surprising that fisherman Chris Zajac’s oil paintings are mostly seascapes. He’s a classic “portfolio” fisherman who goes after salmon in the summer, crab in the late fall/winter, and black cod and rockfish in between those seasons. Chris has an art degree from UC Santa Cruz, and took...

It’s not surprising that fisherman Chris Zajac’s oil paintings are mostly seascapes. He’s a classic “portfolio” fisherman who goes after salmon in the summer, crab in the late fall/winter, and black cod and rockfish in between those seasons. Chris has an art degree from UC Santa Cruz, and took to fishing as a summer job right out of college, for the same reason many do: “I needed to make money,” he explained. He’s been fishing for 35 years, and has found that fishing and being an artist both come with their own challenges.

“Fishing is hardcore physical labor,” he said. “But art isn’t easy either. With classical art, you need training. And you never know if a painting will sell. They are both uncertain economically, but I have a passion for them.”

He offloads and docks his fishing vessel, Serena May, in the Santa Cruz harbor where sometimes storms block them in and the boats can’t go out and fish. This, not the hard work and uncertain prices, is hardest for him. “I love leaving the safety of land, the freedom of going out on a boat,” he said. “When I’m stuck in harbor, I feel like a caged critter.” Painting images of the Monterey Bay helps until he can get back out to sea.

His favorite local seafoods are spot prawns and king salmon. His favorite way to prepare them? “Keep it super simple,” he said. “For salmon, I put some garlic and olive on fillets, grill them, then add a little lemon and black pepper afterwards. With fresh fish, you don’t need to do much. The flavor is already so good.”

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