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Testing the Waters : New fish market is gauging response for a possible year-round venture.


The fresh fish are flying.

If they're not flying, they are certainly moving quickly--from commercial fishing boats docked at the Ventura Harbor Village pier to shoppers at the new Fishermen's Market.

The weekly market, held from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays at the pier behind Andria's Seafood restaurant, debuted earlier this month and will continue through the summer. Organizers are trying to determine if the wholesale market could continue year-round.

"Last week one fisherman was selling salmon for $3.50 a pound--probably less than half of what you'd find at a retail store," said Oscar Pena, property manager for Ventura Harbor Village. "We had white sea bass, salmon, halibut, rock cod."

Village officials are co-sponsoring the market along with a group of the area's commercial fishermen and Andria's owner Michael Wagner. Though the market is new to Ventura, plans for a fresh fish venue have been floating around for some time.

"This last few months it has come to fruition as a result of the initiative of a few of the members of the Ventura County Fishermen's Assn.," Pena said.

"With El Nino conditions, they were hit hard as far as not being able to go out and fish," he said. "When they did get to, they thought this would be an excellent opportunity for profit. It's also an opportunity for people to have fresh fish at a very reasonable cost."

So far the market seems to be more popular among the buyers than it is among the commercial fishermen, Pena said. More than 150 visitors have stopped by, with only two or three fishermen participating. But he expects the number of sellers to increase soon.

"A lot of [fishermen] interested in the fish market are returning from Alaska," he said. "Sometimes they have to travel a long distance, but they will be back in the local market and want to be more involved in this."

In time, Pena said, he would like the Ventura Fishermen's Market to reach the level of the market in Santa Barbara.

"There are commercial fishermen in Santa Barbara who fish [specifically] to sell at the market," he said. "We hope to get there, where commercial fishermen can go out on Wednesday and Thursday, come back on Friday and sell on Saturday."

Pena said the one downside to buying the fresh fish is that they come whole, so shoppers have to filet the fish themselves or hire someone to do it. Andria's Seafood and Pierpont Seafood, also at the harbor, charge 25 cents to about $1.25 a pound to filet, he said.

For more information on the Fishermen's Market, call 644-0169.


Nou Nou's Continental Cuisine, the California Grill, 71 Palm Restaurant and the Crab House Restaurant & Saloon will be among establishments participating in the 11th annual "A Taste of Camarillo" benefit food and wine festival and wine auction, July 26, at Adolfo Camarillo House.

Participating wineries include Gainey Vineyard of Santa Ynez, Edna Valley Vineyard of Napa Valley, Simi Winery of Sonoma County and Quady Winery of the central San Joaquin Valley.

Hors d'oeuvres and a pre-auction wine-tasting will be offered at 1 p.m., followed by the auction at 2. The festival will run from 1 to 4 p.m. The Camarillo House is at 3771 Mission Oaks Blvd. Cost is $40 advance, $45 on event day, with proceeds benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo.

For reservations, call 482-8113.

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