I’ve been lucky in San Diego to make friendships with guys who are obsessed with fishing or make a living racing charters.
Guys like Captain Mark Mihelich of Boundless Boat Charters and my friend Zac Hood have given me adventures that will last a lifetime. They also gave great presentations such as Nico Gibbons who has a fabulous weekly fish market/restaurant in Al’s Cafe in Carlsbad Village.
This is one of those finds I’ll be watching weekly – Instagram, texting and email (all below) are the best way to keep up with their fresh catches as it’s a great place to pick up fish for the freezer and snack with a cold beer on one of their sidewalk tables. I needed to know more about Nico, his background and how it happened…with a fish story, of course, so he explained to me recently.
PLT: What is your story, how did you get into fishing and when did it become a passion/livelihood?
Nico: I was born and raised in San Diego. I started fishing when I was 12 in Point Loma. When there was no surfing during the summer, my family friend would take me and a few friends and teach us how to fish for bluefin tuna, yellowtail and dorado, all rod and reel.
My passion for fish started after high school when I worked as a busboy at the El Pescador fish market in La Jolla. I worked my way up to become a home fishmonger, selling fillets and whole fish to customers.
The natural and authentic feeling of selling fish to customers made me want to learn more about being a fishmonger. I went fishing more often during my stay at El Pescador, being really able to distinguish between “straight off the boat” fresh fish and wholesale fresh fish. After El Pescador Fish, I worked at other well-known Southern California fish restaurants.
After graduating from UCLA, I moved to Mexico City to study under celebrity chef Federico Rigoletti, co-founder of famed seafood restaurant Contramar. After my time in Mexico City, I worked in wholesale at Hawaiian Fresh Seafood, where I learned about tuna supply and grading and worked with restaurants to deliver the freshest seafood. of our boats.
PLT: Describe your current gig as owner operator of Nico’s Fish Market.
Nico: We operate a pop-up restaurant at Al’s Café in the Village of Carlsbad every Friday and Saturday. All our fish comes from our FV Winnebago boat or from our network of local fishermen. We buy fish the day before or the day from the fish stalls to provide the freshest high quality fish to the local community.
All of our fish is locally sourced, ranging from local bluefin tuna, gilthead seabream, swordfish, halibut and white bass. My three other friends share our boat, the FV Winnebago. This is a bonito from 1989.
PLT: What inspired you to choose Al’s as your location?
Nico: For the past two years, I’ve eaten at Al’s for breakfast every month after fishing in Oceanside. Al and I got to know each other well and connected about fish and restaurants. Watching an owner-operator run his restaurant for 31 years was inspiring. I have always admired his “lead by example” work ethic.
PLT: Tell me about the arrangement with the fisherman who provides you with the product.
Nico: If we are not on our boat for the week, I will message my local fishing brothers and let them know what I am aiming to buy and what day. I have a network of anglers who go out on Wednesdays and Thursdays and let me know what they catch. I then meet them on the docks and buy the whole fish. I then spin the fish on the day of my fishmonger’s stand to ensure quality and freshness.
There really is no better feeling than seeing a fish with clear eyes, firm skin and bright colors. It’s great to be a local fisherman buying from other local fisherman and supplying fresh local fish to the community. It’s so rootsy.
PLT: Outline your weekly setup and what people can expect.
Nico: At our fish shop we have a range of things. For starters, we always offer freshly caught ahi tuna pokes, poke bowls and Poke n’ Chips. We also sell oysters on half shells and oyster shots. For mains we sell burritos, plates and fish sandwiches, depending on what we caught or my fishing brothers that day or the day before. Our catch was local bluefin tuna two weeks ago, and last week local swordfish.
We also offer beer and wine. Customers can also come and pick up fish fillets to take home. Right after we get off the boat, I text all my customers on the FISH LIST to let them know what my other angler bros or we caught on the ship.
PLT: Give me a good fish story from the past year.
Nico: We were fishing the local amberjack right at La Jolla Cove near the kelp beds. While fishing for yellowtail we saw a red figure 20 feet from us. We thought it was a bluefin tuna loin or something, but instead it was a half-eaten seal. Still alive, its tail was bitten off and the seal was in extreme pain.
A minute later we see a 14 foot great white shark circling the seal and our boat. We realized that we were interrupting the big white’s breakfast. The great white covered the entire length of our craft. The great white continued to encircle the seal. We waited to see what the great white would do next, but realized he was waiting for us to leave so he could have some privacy and finish his morning meal.
PLT: Thanks to your team members?
Nico: My colleagues are avid anglers and surfers, so our shared passion for fish and the ocean makes providing customers with fish that much more enjoyable. And our customers, of course.
Get updates on Nico’s Fish Market’s weekly catch list by texting him at 858.245.3305 or emailing him at [email protected]