In Brett Fahning’s 24 years of commercial fishing in northern California, he has only worked on two boats. Over that time he has also owned two boats.
In 2004, after 10 years of fishing on the Mary Lu, he purchased the Rogue, a spirited 52-foot wooden boat built in 1929. Then in 2010, the now 45-year-old hailing from Wisconsin, bought the 57-foot Mary Lu from the late Jon Brunsing, the captain who taught him how to fish.
But the Mary Lu is now much different than it was when he started working on deck as a college student studying oceanography in 1994.
Fahning has completely reshaped the vessel, adding 5 feet to the length and 7 1/2 feet to the beam at Crescent City’s Fashion Blacksmith in the fall of 2017. He added a bulbous bow in 2011 and repowered with a John Deere 6135AFM in 2014.
“It’s a totally different boat than when I first got on,” Fahning said. “You can’t even compare the two.”
With the sponson, Fahning can now double-rig the Mary Lu for shrimping with two bags two sets of doors. While it might not double his catch, “it’s a way more efficient way to fish,” he said.
Other benefits of a bigger boat include being able to stack all 500 Dungeness crab traps on the deck in a single go. The added size also creates a safer ride when filling the fish hold to capacity with shrimp and Dungeness crab.
Over the past few years there has been much doom and gloom about the future of commercial fishing, but Fahning has remained bullish on the future with big investments in his operation. In the coming years he plans to rebuild the house and extend the fish hold.
“I am optimistic. I’ve been hearing pessimism forever — that was happening in 1994 with people saying you don’t want to get into this business,” Fahning said. “There are more challenges, more regulations, but what industry hasn’t changed in the past two decades?”
Home port: Crescent City, Calif.
Owner: Brett Fahning
Builder: Isleton, Calif.
Year built: 1965
Fisheries: Dungeness crab, pink shrimp
Hull material: Steel
Length: 62 feet 4 inches
Beam: 24 feet 6 inches
Draft: 7 feet 6 inches
Tonnage: 75 net
Crew capacity: 4
Main propulsion: John Deere 6135AFM
Gearbox: Twin Disc 5114, 4.17 reduction
Genset: Mitsubishi 40-kw
Propeller: 52″ x 38″ four-blade
Shaft: 3.5 inches
Speed: 7.5 knots
Fuel capacity: 5,000 gallons
Freshwater capacity: 1,200 gallons
Hold capacity: 50,000 pounds
Electronics: Furuno FR8125 radar, Furuno FCV 620 depth sounder, Nobeltec Timezero plotting software, two Furuno GP32 GPS units, Wesmar sonar, VHF radios, Maretron alarm/monitor system, Comnav autopilot, Comnav GPS compass