Barbara Carter may not look the way one envisions the typical commercial fisherman, but her reasons for being one are remarkably similar.
As a young girl, Barbara simply loved to fish, and spent countless hours at her local park, fishing for bluegill and carp. She would also tag along after her older brother, whenever he would let her, and fish off the old broken-down pier at Avila. After a few trips on the sport boat that ran out of San Simeon, she was hooked, and her passion for saltwater fishing began.
Barbara’s husband, Bruce, bought their first boat in 1976, and it wasn’t long before they were enjoying eating fresh-caught fish. One thing led to another, and before long Captain Carter was running her own boat, having discovered the ocean didn’t quite agree with her husband.
Most of Captain Carter’s fishing activity takes place on the F/V Happy Hootchie, a 22-foot cuddy-cabin fiberglass boat. She fishes the deeper nearshore for rockfish, and also fishes for halibut, white sea bass and albacore. Captain Carter also maintains a 15-foot fiberglass Arema, which is registered commercially and used as a “back-up” if the Happy Hootchie is undergoing maintenance or repairs.
Captain Carter and her husband, Bruce, raised three children and now have four grandchildren.
When asked why she made the transition in 1989 from being a recreational fisherman to being a commercial one, Captain Carter explains it very simply: “I needed a way to pay for my toys.” In addition, she was just catching too many fish for her personal use. Today Captain Carter is a respected member of the Port San Luis commercial fishing community and the secretary of the Port San Luis Commercial Fishermen’s Association, a post she has held since 2002.
The next time you’re in Avila Beach, stop and take a walk on the historic Harford Pier. If you’re lucky, you might find Captain Carter at the end of the pier unloading her catch of the day to the local wholesaler. You might even catch sight of the Happy Hootchie among the moored vessels.