A REAL FISH STORY

Seafood company makes a splash at Lake Tahoe.

WRITTEN BY PAUL HOPPE

Farm to table is all the rage, and for good reason: It’s fresher and more delicious.

Now, imagine ocean to table: wild salmon, straight out of the ocean and onto your table.

Meet Brand Little, fish entrepreneur and owner of The Little Fish Co. Brand was toiling away at a corporate sales gig in 2005 when he purchased, on a whim, his first fishing vessel, The Sunshine.

Despite an inauspicious beginning, during which he learned the horrors of seasickness, he continued to set sail. Early on, he hauled in a massive catch of wild, deep water Bodega Bay salmon. It was more fish than the commercial seafood buyer could handle.

Brand’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, as he wasn’t in the mood to throw away this huge catch of wild salmon. He called his wife, Laura, and together they loaded the fish into the van, dashed hell-bent to the processing plant, and within hours had beautifully cleaned, filleted wild salmon.

Next stop, the Auburn Farmers’ Market. The couple sold out within hours, and that night Brand and Laura laid out a business plan that would cut out the middleman. Each time they delivered a slightly larger load of wild salmon, which sold out every time. They decided to try their luck further up the foothills. Again, at each market, they sold out.

In 2007, Brand parted with The Sunshine (“a deathtrap”), and purchased a larger boat, The Fair Seas, the boat of his dreams. However, at the end of that year, a total ban was placed on wild salmon fishing in California waters, which lasted two years. Although the ban has been lifted, salmon fishing still is limited in California waters.

Licensed only in California, Brand sat in his new boat and watched from the dock as his fellow fishermen headed up to Oregon and other points far outside California waters.

The entrepreneurial wheels started spinning again. By now Brand was friendly with all the other boats and their captains, so he contacted them to sell part of their catch directly to him.

This bold idea was even more successful. With a greater supply and more variety, Brand and Laura expanded their territory, and now are feeding fish aficionados all over the Tahoe Basin.