Source: San Francisco Chronicle

For the first time in almost two decades, a fisherman sold fish straight from his boat at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Giuseppe “Joe” Pennisi sold about 230 pounds of rockfish, petrale sole and other fish from his boat on Saturday and Sunday, making him the first to take part in a pilot program at the Port of San Francisco that allows fishermen to sell directly to retail customers from their boats.

David and Evelyn Riley of Fremont were the first customers to stroll up Saturday to Pennisi’s boat, the Pioneer, which was docked on Pier 47 near Scoma’s Restaurant. They took home about 11 pounds of petrale sole and 8 pounds of chilipepper rockfish for $79. They returned the next day with their college-age son and bought more rockfish and a whole ling cod.

“We’ve been eating it every day since,” said David Riley, who loves to fish but said he doesn’t have time to take his boat out as often as he used to. “It’s delicious.”

A well-established practice at many California ports, including Half Moon Bay, the San Francisco fish-sales program was approved Sept. 12 but delayed at the last minute because the Port of San Francisco had to confirm that it had sufficient insurance to cover the added liability of having more people spend time at the docks. That issue has since been resolved, said Michael Nerney, maritime marketing manager for the Port, which last had a similar program in 2000.

The northern waterfront, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Hyde Street Pier and Pier 39, draws 15 million visitors a year, according to the Port, yet few people — whether tourists or locals — are able to take part in the traditional fishing culture there.

“It’s fun seeing people at the dock,” Pennisi said. “Sometimes we had 30 people hanging out.”

Joe Pennisi shows one of the Soupfin Sharks caught from the cold storage room on his boat,The Pioneer, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Paul Kuroda, Special To The Chronicle

Photo: Paul Kuroda, Special To The Chronicle
Joe Pennisi shows one of the Soupfin Sharks caught from the cold storage room on his boat,The Pioneer, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif.

The new program allows San Francisco fishermen to sell whole fish only, not fillets. They cannot sell Dungeness crab, which has a season that is scheduled to start Nov. 15, and Nerney thinks most of the fleet will be focused on crab in the coming weeks. As a result, he believes that some may not apply for permits until the spring, which will allow them to see how it goes for Pennisi.

“Because of the timing (with the crab season), it is not going to hit full stride right away,” Nerney said.

While most fishermen have smaller boats, Pennisi usually brings in at least 20,000 pounds of fish in his trawler for wholesale customers, plus 1,000 to 2,000 pounds for weekly donations to Glide Memorial Church, said deck boss Joleen Lambert-Skinner. They are now offering fish to retail customers at $3 to $5 per pound, depending on the species.

The Pioneer crew is still working out a weekly schedule for when they will go fishing — each trip takes 30 to 36 hours — and when they will be at the wharf to sell. They plan to post dates and times on their website ( and on Facebook and will sell fish until they run out, Lambert-Skinner said in a text.

“When we have any fish left, I keep at it ’til it’s all gone,” she said.

Tara Duggan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @taraduggan