Sportfishing on the Bay with Kids - 510 Families
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Sportfishing on the Bay with Kids

Many thanks to Gatherer Outfitters for offering us the chance to go fishing out on the Bay! We loved it so much we want to share our experience with you.

At some point, your kid is going to ask to go fishing. They probably read some book or saw some show where fishing looked awesome. But do you know how to fish? I certainly don’t. So when my kid asked me to go fishing, I perused this handy list of local fishing spots to see if I could put something together without too much cost or effort. That may work for you, but I know nothing about fishing, so I wanted someone to figure out all the details for me.

boy fishing off the berkeley marina
Theo manning the fishing rod | Photo: Andrew Herson

If this sounds like you, I highly recommend checking out Gatherer Outfitters based out of the Berkeley Marina. I recently booked a day of fishing with this local, family-run business for my son and husband out on the Bay (I bowed out due to seasickness worries, though apparently it was smooth as glass the day they went out). And apparently, it was epic. Read on for highlights from my 10-year-old son Theo and husband Andrew.

little girl fishing on boat with man on the san francisco bay
Children as young as five can enjoy fishing. The Gatherer folks are great with kids | Photo: Andrew Herson

Fishing on the San Francisco Bay with Little Kids

You’ll have to wake up early early since the boat leaves at 5:45 am from the Berkeley Marina. This was Theo’s least favorite part of the trip, but he got over it once he caught his first fish. The boat is a good size and the motor has a muffler so it’s not as loud as other similar boats. Be sure to wear plenty of layers with a waterproof jacket, pants, and boots since it can get pretty wet.

inside of fishing boat
The Gatherer II was comfortable enough as far as fishing boats go | Photo: Andrew Herson

Theo: Waking up at 5:15 am sucked. I hate waking up that early. I also didn’t like having to wear so many layers and my uncomfortable boots. But it was all worth it. I loved being out on the boat and catching all those fish!

Andrew: I was worried when Theo was so cranky in the morning, especially when there’s no guarantee that the weather and fish will cooperate. Happily, Theo snapped out of it quickly and the fish were biting early. 

The Who, What, and Where of Fishing on the Bay

Captain Adam, the owner, and his deckhand Dorian were highly experienced and kind. They knew exactly where to go to find the most fish and then helped everyone on the boat catch their fair share. You usually fish for halibut and striped bass, with each person allowed to take two big fish home. That can take the full 6 am – 3 pm on some days, but on this day they hit their limits by 11 am! Both Andrew and Theo were fine with coming back early since the morning had been so incredibly jam-packed and fun. Of course, not every fishing trip is the same, but Captain Adam seemed to have a real knack for finding the fish.

view of San Francisco from bay
Beautiful views out on the Bay | Photo: Andrew Herson

As far as the boat, the Gatherer II is a super fast, super comfortable 30 x 12 1/2 foot Island Hopper. She’s one of the few Coast Guard Inspected 8+ boats in the Bay, meaning that their boat was built and maintained to the highest safety standards. The Gatherer II is also extremely wide and stable, perfect for both trolling and drifting. There’s also an onboard head (toilet) and comfortable seating for everyone.

Age-wise, you have to be at least age five to be in the boat (yes, they have child-sized life vests). As far as the age-appropriate level of patience necessary, that’ll be your call. As a 10-year-old, Theo seemed to be the perfect age. A younger girl on the boat who was only five got bored after about an hour. Then again, maybe fishing is the perfect activity to teach patience.

Andrew: I really liked how not-loud the boat was, though I did get pretty wet on the initial drive out to start fishing. Luckily I was wearing all my rain gear.

Theo: I didn’t have to use the bathroom, which is good. Not sure what that would have been like.

Wait, we have to kill the fish?

If you have an animal-loving kiddo who’s never gone fishing, they may not have thought about the more gruesome part of the process: the killing. It’s probably a good idea to prepare them. Just tell them that after you reel the fish into the boat, the fish will have to be hit on the side or floor of the boat so it dies quickly. It is a teachable moment about where our food comes from.

Theo: I don’t like the idea of killing animals, so it was shocking to see them hit the fish after I reeled it in. But it was fast and not really gross. I got over it.

dead fish with mouth open
Fishing is fun; just be sure to warn your little kids how the story ends. | Photo: Andrew Herson

How to Book Your Fishing Trip

Booking is super easy. Just click on the BOOK NOW tab on the Gatherer Outfitters website and choose what type of fish and trip you’re interested in. We chose the halibut and striped bass individual tickets ($250 per adult, $200 per accompanying child), but you can also book a charter for 8+ people or even a women-only trip ($25 off the regular ticket price to reflect the wage gap!). You’ll pick a day on their calendar, reserve the spot with your credit card, and you’re done. So easy.

Andrew: I felt like the price was fair given everything is included (gear, bait, know-how, fish). The price of buying the amount of amazing sushi-grade halibut that we brought home would have been in the hundreds alone!

dead fish lined up
Plenty of fresh fish to go around! Lots of halibut biting that day | Photo: Andrew Herson

What to Bring

  • Warm and waterproof layers, including boots
  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Snacks and lunch (though you can add on catered lunch for $20 per person if you’d like ( Call or text 510-565-0875 to arrange)
  • Waterproof phone holder
  • Seasickness patches or pills if you’re inclined towards motion sickness
  • Change of clothes in case you get soaked or uncomfortable
  • Cooler to bring your fish home
  • It’s all-inclusive as far as gear, so no need to bring a rod or bait (are worms still a thing?)
dad and son kneeling by fish
A great father-son outing with a tasty dinner to follow | Photo: Andrew Herson

The Bottom line

Andrew and Theo had a ton of fun fishing on the Bay! Yes, they were blessed with fabulous conditions and the fish were biting like crazy the day they went out. But even if things had been slightly less ideal they both still enjoyed just being out on the Bay and trying something new and adventurous. As a dad, Andrew felt like it was a great bonding experience, and as a kid, Theo found the entire trip novel and exciting. Will they go again? The price is steep (but fair), so we may wait until a birthday or other special occasion (Grandpa visiting or Father’s Day?). As far as eating the fish, we ate most of it and gave a bit away to friends. We loved this mango halibut recipe, and this broiled halibut one too.

Thanks again for the adventure, Gatherer Outfitters!

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