WON FEATURE REPORT
...and forever, champion of the king salmon
A Special to Western Outdoor News
SAN FRANCISCO — Jacky Douglas, Capt. of the Wacky Jacky based out of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, was the first lady skipper of the partyboat fleet, and remains the queen supreme of the fishing boats.
Now 81 years old, Jacky has won the hearts and admiration of her peers, and if salmon could talk, they would vote her in charge of the battle for their survival.
Here's an opinion piece that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, written by Jacky. In a sidebar, you'll find comments from some of her oldest friends and skippers. This is the first in an on-going-series of stories introducing you to varies ocean skippers and fishing guide throughout Northern California.
Why salmon matter to San Francisco, and California
BY JACKY DOUGLAS, Captain of the WACKY JACKY
I guess you could call me an ancient mariner with a fixation. I'm 81 years old, and I can think of only one thing: salmon fishing; Since 1972, I've skippered my charter boat, the Wacky Jacky, from Fishermen's Wharf in San Francisco; I take people whale watching and halibut and striped fishing – but to be honest, those are sideshows. My boat and career – my whole life, really - are all about salmon.
Salmon support me, they supported my family, and catching them remains my life's work. But salmon are more than my vocation and personal passion. Salmon are part of San Francisco's culture and history - and until recently, a major component of its economy; The salmon fishery was always big business in this town;
Fishermen^ Wharf was originally built to service two major fisheries: Dungeness crab and salmon- Local salmon were the backbone of a major seafood processing industry, and they were featured in every good restaurant in the Bay Area.
Moreover, when we had abundant salmon in our offshore waters, San Francisco Bay and our rivers, we knew our aquatic environment was in pretty good shape- Salmon and the people who catch and eat them weren't the only beneficiaries of healthy ecosystems: so were all the other sport- game-fish species, as well as a wide of wildlife, It meant that our watersheds were stable, and that the water that flowed into our reservoirs was pure- It meant we had pollution from agriculture and our under control. That's why the last two years have been so difficult for me- For the first time since I've been fishing, there was no salmon season in 2008, and again in 2009. This year, well get a minimal season, one hobbled by severe restrictions.
The reason our fishing has been curtailed is simple: our salmon populations have crashed. Why? There are several secondary factors, but there is a single reason driving this decline that overrides all others — the excessive diversion of freshwater from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the corporate farms of the western San Joaquin Valley. Our salmon need cold, clean water in their spawning streams to survive, and they're not getting it.
I'm an emotional person, and I’m not ashamed to say that I sometimes cry when I think of what has happened to our salmon and our salmon fishermen. When S first started fishing, there were 35 charter boats working from Fishermen's Wharf. Today there are only seven.
At my age, obviously, I’m not worried about myself. But the thought that I may be one of the last representatives of a great San Francisco tradition and industry deeply me; especially because it isn’t necessary. We can revive our salmon and the salmon - all it will is some determination to do the right thing.
• SOME 20 years ago, outdoor writer Ray Rychnovsky took this photo of Capt. Jacky Douglas in the wheelhouse of the Wacky Jacky, a scene that literally thousands of anglers who have fished—and still fish-- aboard her vessel get to see. PHOTO BY RAY RYCHNOVSKY
• ROCKFISHING IS not Capt. Jacky Douglas' preferred type of fishing. For her, the king salmon is king, and she believes the entire problem with the current runs is habitat, much, if not all of it, due to water pumped from the Delta. PHOTO BY CRAIG HANSON
Some comments from some Of Jacky's oldest friendsBy Craig Hanson, outdoor communicator, host and creator of "Fishing the Golden Gate"
Simply put, Jacky Douglas is the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
Her passion for fishing, the ocean and salmon in particular are unparalleled. From the beginning of her career she showed the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to finding fish; often to the chagrin of her male counterparts.
Her mentors were the royalty of the Bay Area fleet. Captains Al Sancimino and his brother Vince were considered the very best. Capt. Al on the Carrie was the godfather of salmon. Capt. Vince on the New Mary S was the king of bass. In 1973, both had boats on the back row of Fisherman’s Wharf when Jacky began her charter boat career after raising four girls.
Equally important was Captain Albie Spadaro, whose boat the Florie S, Jacky bought with the help of her very close friend, and pioneer of local sport fishing, Bill Ulfelder. The 40-foot wooden-hulled gem carried 12 passengers and fished like a dream.
After just a few years in the business Jacky made the huge step, purchasing her present boat, a 50-foot Delta, in Seattle. Within a week she had gone from one of the slowest boats in the fleet to one of the fastest. We arrived at the wharf in the afternoon and the very next day we christened the boat with a bunch of drunks - common occurrence in those days. It didn’t matter, Jacky still managed to get them fish.
To this day, Jacky still has the same enthusiasm for fishing and life she did when I first met her more than 40 years ago. Jacky and her husband George took me under their wing, and provided an opportunity to a young kid that I’ll always cherish. We fished every weekend on their 28-foot Monterey, included trips to Santa Cruz were the boat would spend the summer.
Along the way, Jacky has helped many kids and young men. She has a heart of gold, and truly cares about not just her long-time customers, but also the first-timers who come on board. To this day, Jacky still runs out of the wheelhouse, camera in hand, to take a photo of a tourist holding their trophy. Within a few days, that photo will be in the mail to the lucky angler.
She does all this not for herself, but because she loves what she does, and for the future of the fishing industry. Anyone who fishes with Jacky understands everything she does comes from the heart. What she has brought to the industry goes way beyond taking thousands of people fishing.
By Phil "Butchie" Bentivegna, Captain of the Butchie B
I've known Jacky since I was a customer, before she was a captain. Now we tie our boats up next to each other, and are really good friends.
When I go to the city, I stay at her place in San Francisco--we're really that close. She's a very generous woman. She loves fishing, but she really loves salmon more than anything. She'll run with no passengers, just guests , just to do it!
Her whole life is fishing. At her house, it's photos of fish. I could not ask for a better dock partner, and we even share business. I'll give her my people if I can't run, and last weekend, she gave me a whole charter on Saturday.
I think she's great for the industy. She was a woman who came into a man's business, and she's done great. She probably has one of the top five businesses in the Bay Area
By Roger Thomas, Captain of the Salty Lady
Jacky has dedicated her heart and soul to salmon. Prior to acquiring her license to operate a passenger vessel, she was involved in fishing from her first Wacky Jacky in San Francisco south to Santa Cruz, where she spent her summers with her children. She fished for salmon and other species throughout the summer.
Her love of fishing got her involved in many campaigns to protect the resource. In 1972 she went into business and in 1976 she built a new 50-foot Delta vessel called Wacky Jacky which has changed the face of our industry, and now the fleet has upgraded to new vessels.
She represents recreational anglers and our industry at many meetings such as Pacific Fishery Management Council, California Fish & Game Commission, Legislative Hearings and personal meetings with Congressional members.
Her efforts and contributions to the salmon resource, the fishing industry, recreational and commercial fishermen, have been tremendous. We all owe her a large debt of gratitude.