SAN DIEGO — Point Loma resident Ethan Mayes reached a fishing milestone in August that no other California fisherman has achieved.
It took him five years, traveling up and down the California coast, but he finally became a Master Ocean Angler at just 13 years old.
Mayes began fishing as an eight-year-old and after catching his first fish, he was immediately hooked.
“I’ve been fishing every weekend for as long as I can and just fishing every single chance I get,” Mayes told FOX 5. “Over the summer, I fish basically every single day that my parents let me and fishing, you know, it’s just a way of life for me.”
The 13-year-old took to the sport like a natural and began logging his catches in the California Fishing Passport Program, a booklet that allows anglers to record the date, place and species of at least 50 different saltwater fish caught within California waters.
“It really was a turning point when I caught my 25th species and I said, ‘Wow, I could actually do this,'” Mayes said. “‘I could get to 50 at some point.’ And I wanted to be the first one to do that.”
Mayes caught his 50th species of fish in August, a black and yellow rockfish.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, he’s the first person in the state to do so, earning him Master Ocean Angler status.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” said Mayes. “After fishing for five years and finally achieving that, it was the best feeling ever.”
“It’s really really cool,” said Kody Kessell, a local fishing captain. “I’ve never seen or heard of somebody catching that many different species of fish and turning it in, it’s like nothing to him. He might as well have not done it, because in his mind he’s still set on catching the next one. He still wants to catch everything there is to catch.”
Kessell met Mayes one year ago, and as captain he decided to offer the eighth-grader the chance to hone his fishing skills and knowledge aboard “The Dolphin.”
“He’s never turned opportunity down, he’s never said no,” Kessell said. “You tell him to go do something and he does it down to the (tiniest) detail.”
Now that he’s become a Master Ocean Angler, Mayes says his next goal is the shellfish category. If he becomes a master at that, he qualifies for the Supreme Master Angler award, something no other California fisherman has accomplished.
“What I’d like to do is become a shellfish specialist in the same passport program,” said Mayes. “Catch some species of crab, mussels, lobster, sea urchin and stuff like that.”
“Ethan has that passion, it’s pretty much all he ever talks about,” Kessell said. “He just texts me all the time like, ‘How did you guys do today? I might be coming out on Saturday. Can I come out please?’ It’s something that not everybody has, but when you have the certain passion for something, especially like that, it takes you a long way.”
Mayes hopes someday to sit where Kessell sits now. The honor-roll student says he’d like to get a Marine Fisheries degree from Humboldt State, then his captain’s license to one day manage his own fishing boat.
“If I want to have a blast, I got to put my time in,” said Mayes. “I mean there’s a saying, ‘Hours and hours of boredom upon 15 minutes of excitement’ and that pretty much sums up fishing and that’s why I love it so much.”
You can catch Mayes fishing in Point Loma near Shelter Island off the piers or aboard “The Dolphin” on most weekends.