From cod to squid salad, H&H Fresh Fish offers more than just salmon at Santa Cruz County farmers markets

Cindy Ellis runs the H&H Fresh Fish stall at the Felton farmers market.
(Jean Yi / Lookout Santa Cruz)

H&H Fresh Fish started off as a way for Hans Haveman to sell his salmon catch. Now, it mostly gets its catch from other local fishers. H&H has expanded to more than a dozen different farmers markets from Aptos to Oakland, as well as a main location at the Santa Cruz Harbor.

Fishing has brought Hans Haveman everywhere from Alaska to Pacific islands. Fishing “makes me whole, makes me feel connected and grounded,” said Haveman, who co-founded H&H Fresh Fish with his business partner and co-parent, Heidi Rhodes, in 2003. And despite Haveman’s treks across the Pacific Ocean, H&H has remained centered in the Santa Cruz fishing scene since the company got its start 20 years ago.

Haveman is also a professional chef who trained with Wolfgang Puck. He got his love of fishing from his parents and grew up fishing in Santa Cruz — “He’s been fishing since he could walk,” said Cindy Ellis, an H&H employee who runs the stall at Felton farmers market. H&H is a family business, and Haveman and Rhodes are also getting their children interested in fishing.

H&H Fresh Fish started as a way to sell Haveman’s salmon catch. Now, it mostly gets its catch from other local fishers. It has expanded to more than a dozen different farmers markets, from Aptos to Oakland, as well as a main location at the Santa Cruz Harbor, appropriately enough. So while the H&H Felton stall was relatively small during a visit on a May Tuesday, with just three trays of fish visible, the Santa Cruz location has a larger selection, including black cod and sardines, as well as merchandise and condiments like vinegars and spices.

Along with selling fish directly to customers through its retail store and farmers market stalls, H&H offers fish through a delivery service, as well as a community-supported fishery club (the first fishmonger in California to do so, according to H&H). Local restaurants also feature its fish, like the Scrumptious Fish & Chips food truck at the Felton market. The fried local rockfish is crispy and flaky, with a subtle, nutty taste. (Disappointingly, the chips, which are thick-cut French fries, were a mealy, slightly soggy contrast.)

At the Felton stall, prices ranged from $12 per pound for clams to $35 for a pound of smoked ahi tuna, with most prices hovering around the $20-per-pound range. H&H also offers some premade seafood items, like tuna smear and squid salad, along with shellfish, including rock crab claws “that we get from a guy named Rocky,” Ellis said.

One of its non-local offerings is king salmon; during normal seasons, salmon comprises half or more of H&H’s business. In past years, the salmon would have been locally sourced as well — but the California commercial and recreational salmon season was canceled this year due to record-low fish stocks. Crab fishing was also delayed due to concerns about whale entanglement. Other commercial and recreational fishers in Santa Cruz have turned to rockfish, halibut and deepwater sablefish.

Workers unload fresh salmon at the Santa Cruz Harbor.
Hans Haveman of H&H Fresh Fish helps unload salmon with H&H employees Logan Mankins and Vince Golder at the Santa Cruz Harbor in April 2022.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Monterey Bay’s status as a national marine sanctuary also complicates commercial fishing, said Ellis: “They’re very protective of what goes on, how people fish.” She says that fishers are leaving for places like Oregon, Washington and Canada where they can still fish.

While the regulatory environment remains challenging for the local seafood industry, H&H Fresh Fish was able to adapt successfully to the COVID-19 pandemic. People flocked to the outdoor farmers market locations with plentiful ventilation and open space. H&H’s delivery service also boomed as health-conscious customers started buying more local fish.

H&H has branched out into more specialty products such as squid salad, poke, and salmon burgers, as well as a catering service for its mobile raw oyster bar, Shucked Raw Bar. But selling fresh, local fish remains at the core of its business — something that has sustained H&H for going on 20 years. For a Santa Cruz spin on a summer barbecue, Ellis recommends tacos with rockfish. And H&H’s salmon burgers are also grill-ready.

H&H Fresh Fish can be found at its Santa Cruz Harbor location daily, as well as the Felton farmers market on Tuesdays, downtown Santa Cruz farmers market on Wednesdays, the Aptos, Westside Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley farmers markets on Saturdays and the Live Oak farmers market on Sundays, plus other markets around the San Francisco Bay Area. H&H also has delivery and online options available on its website, which shows what products are in stock.

FOR THE RECORD: This story has been updated to clarify that H&H says it is the first in California to launch a Community Supported Fishery Club, a weekly seafood delivery.