Captain Tommy Estes of the F/V Tara Dawn is a third-generation fisherman out of Fort Bragg, Calif. His boat was built in 1975 in the city’s famed Noyo Harbor by Captain Tommy’s father and uncle. (You may remember seeing the harbor at the end of the movie Overboard.)
Captain Tommy’s father, Tom E., first fished at the age of 16 with his stepfather, Adolph Schnaubelt, in the mid-1950s. He spent his summer vacations fishing to pay for his college at Sacramento State. After college, Tom E. taught school for two years in Fort Bragg and then purchased the F/V San de Fuca to fish for salmon, albacore, black cod and crab. It was about that time Captain Tommy was born, and with saltwater in his veins. He was only seven years old when he made his first extended fishing trip – a 28-day albacore trip to Canada!
After knocking people around on college football fields, Captain Tommy decided his heart belonged to fishing. He returned to Fort Bragg, first to fish on the F/V Donna J and then on the beautiful wooden F/V Blue Pacific. By the time he was 30 years old, he and his dad were working together on the Tara Dawn, crabbing, shrimping and trawling for groundfish such as Dover sole and rockfish. Because his dad preferred crabbing, the two men alternated responsibilities. Captain Tommy skippered the trawl fishing trips while his dad ran the boat during crab season.
After his dad stepped down six years ago, Captain Tommy took over running and maintaining Tara Dawn full time. This last summer his eighteen year-old son, Kyle, fished with him. As fishing tends to be a family business often handed down from one generation to another, Captain Tommy is curious to see if any of his three sons will follow in the family tradition.
Fishing is not only a deeply rooted part of the Estes family, but of their local community in Fort Bragg. Captain Tommy is looking toward the future with his and a handful of other fishermen’s participation in piloting a co-management model with The Nature Conservancy and Fort Bragg Groundfish Association that protects the oceans and keeps fisheries productive. Learn more about this unique program by visiting fortbragggroundfish.org.
To learn more about some of the other fishermen we work with by visiting traceandtrust.com.