Plenty of Fish in the Sea: How a Date Led to a Fishing Career

One woman’s dating app success story is also her career success story.

Holly Fruehling smiles while holding a crab she caught in the San Francisco Bay.
Holly Fruehling holds a Dungeness crab from the San Francisco Bay.

For many women, dating apps are somewhat of a joke, seemingly endless galleries of photos of men holding fish, for some reason. But for Holly Fruehling, swiping for love taught her that there are quite literally plenty of fish in the sea.

Six years ago, Holly started seeing a handsome Italian fisherman named Savior, who she matched with on Bumble. At the time, she was in and out of work in marketing and spent her free days with her new beau, sunbathing on his fishing boat.

But before long, Holly was no longer content to just relax on the boat while her boyfriend worked. She started helping him out and immediately fell in love with the work and flexible schedule.

From Stilettos to Fishing Boots

For a few years, she tried to revive her marketing career, and even went back to school again, but the confinement of the office life just wasn’t for her.

Tech was moving fast, and Holly didn’t feel she could keep up. “I wasn’t at the top of the hiring food chain anymore,” she said.

So, after years of learning alongside Savior as a deckhand, she bought a boat off of him in September 2021 and began her first official crabbing season that December.

Fisherwoman Holly Fruehling sells fresh live crabs at the Pier in San Francisco
(credit: Holly Fruehling)

Although Holly has no regrets about leaving the 9 to 5 behind, she still wrestles with the urge to wear both the fishing boots and her signature businesswoman stilettos. Only recently, as she has become captain of her own boat, has she embraced fishing as her full-time gig.

Holly’s father is a Stanford graduate, so she grew up believing education-to-work was the only path.

“The route I was on was what I thought I was supposed to do, it wasn’t necessarily for me.”

Now, Holly gets to work the same schedule as her boyfriend and travel in the off-season.

“All of my friends are jealous,” she shared. “They never thought in a million years that Holly, the girl who stayed at the Ritz Carlton and always had to have the best chardonnay, would be doing this.”

Being a Fisherwoman in a Sea of Fishermen

Aside from being out on the ocean surrounded by sea creatures, Holly says the best part of her second-act career is being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

“I’m an almost fifty-year-old girl and I still get a lot of attention out there.”

Holly gains a lot of enjoyment and fulfillment from knowing she can do the same thing as all the men out there, even though she has a wildly different background.

Fisherwoman Holly Fruehling places a live crab in a box on her boat in San Francisco
(credit: Holly Fruehling)

She says the few other women on the wharf have expressed frustrations about working with old-school Italian fishermen in their sixties.

But to Holly, the fishermen have been nothing but sweet and welcoming.

She says if anything, they might joke lightheartedly about her behind her back. “Like, ‘there goes Blondie running over a buoy again.’” But everyone has been helpful as Holly has nervously navigated her first season as a captain. “They all watch out for me. I feel very safe and protected.”

Holly takes a crew with her some days but goes out all by herself one day each week. Her boyfriend is the only other fisherman who goes out by himself, “but that’s because he’s a crazy Italian,” she joked.

A Greater Impact

Her independence and surprising career journey have even inspired other women to consider joining the trade.

“People are realizing that not all money has to be made in tech here.”

But Holly hasn’t completely abandoned her former field. She hopes to use her public speaking and marketing skills to help revitalize Fisherman’s Wharf as a tourist destination and “shine an honest and real light” on the environmental impact of fishing. As an animal lover and environmentalist, Holly hopes people will listen to her perspective as someone in the fishing industry.

“There’s a balance with everything. I am all for fishing as long as it’s sustainable.”

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