At Harbor House you are not just buying from a fishmonger: you are buying from a fishing family. We source our seafood from boats that we have fished alongside for decades. This means we know their fishing practices and their quality. We purchase seafood from fishermen who are just as committed to quality and sustainability as we are.
Harbor House operates as both a fish dealer and retail fish market – with our Federal Fish Dealer Permits we purchase directly from commercial fishing vessels. In exchange for this privilege, we pay an annual fee, and must report within 48 hours every fish we purchase. They must know what boat, permits, fish species, weights, what gear was used, and when and where the fish was landed.
This is a lot of government oversight therefore most seafood markets purchase from a distributor who has purchased it from a dealer who is selling it for the fishing boat. Its hard to follow seafood once it leaves the boat but at Harbor House, it goes from boat to market instantly.
Robert and Vicki Harrison moved to Hatteras Village in 1988, purchasing a historic home locally called "Harbor House." This historic sound front home operated as a hunting lodge hosting visitors coming for our abundant stock of ducks and geese. Robert and Vicki spent years restoring the home to showcase its old-growth Southern Pine beadboard and coastal resilience. They were approached to add it to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 2000s but declined due to the strict code.
Vicki came home one day in 1989 and said a man down the street was looking for a fishing mate and would Robert be interested? Being a life-long play fisherman he jumped at the chance to catch fish for a living! Back then you had to complete apprenticeship hours at sea to qualify for a commercial fishing license. He completed those and started his own commercial fishing business in 1991 with the purchase of F/V Prowler - a 32' Blue Hill Marine boat built in Maine. Robert started with Federal Fisheries Permits to target Atlantic Tunas, Atlantic Mackerel, and South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Species.
By the late 1990s, Vicki started working for the fish house Robert sold to: Wanchese Fish Company. Founded in 1936, this family-run company was a leading seafood harvester and processor with fishing vessels across the country and abroad. At the Hatteras location, Vicki helped staple fish boxes, cull fish, pack fish, record catches, and write fish tickets. It was from these many years working here that Vicki learned how to properly handle fish including HAACP and histamine training.
While Graham was out fishing with dad since he was a baby, Robbie and Alana stayed on land with mom. Alana would join her at the fish house while she worked - playing around the harbor watching the boats unload their catches. Always patiently waiting on the Prowler boat to get back with her black sea bass for dinner. It took a long time before she realized dad didn't go black sea bass fishing every day!
In 2005, Vicki was approached to take over the only fish house in our neighboring island, Ocracoke. Vicki, Alana and Robert, when he wasn't fishing, went over on the first ferry and came home on the last ferry. Here Vicki ran the fish house and the seafood market, this is also where Alana first learned the ropes of retail.
By 2006, Vicki was ready to stay on the north side of the inlet. Robert was still fishing at this time but felt the days of big catches were numbered for the Outer Banks commercial fleet. So him and Vicki started construction on a retail market, built onto their house.
SPECIES RESTRICTIONS START
Soon afterwards, National Marine Fisheries observed declining fish stocks in the South Atlantic as well. In accordance with the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act prompted our regional fisheries management council to implement strict rebuilding plans for several local lucrative species.
In 2006, quotas, size, trip and possession limits, and gear restrictions were implemented for snowy grouper, golden tilefish, red porgy, black sea bass and vermilion snapper. In 2008, the council establishes strict rebuilding plans for snowy grouper, black sea bass, and red porgy.
HARBOR HOUSE OPENS
In 2007, Harbor House Seafood was opened and Vicki was selling fish caught by Robert on F/V Prowler. By becoming a fish dealer themselves, Robert was able to continue fishing with reduced limits. He no longer had to pay for his fish to be shipped to New York City or pay the fish dealer a consignment fee.
Vicki's attention to detail and customer satisfaction made her a fantastic fishmongress. She treats every visitor like they came to see her personally, making sure you have everything you need to make a delicious seafood meal. In addition to catching all the fish, Robert was also in charge of cutting them all. His attention to detail and love of the product, made him a fantastic fish filleter. His style is called the "premium cut" getting as much white meat and as little blood line as possible.
A FUTURE IN FISHING
In 2015, Robert passed over the F/V Prowler to his son Graham, when he completed his 20 year apprenticeship. This boat is one of the few remaining bottom-fishing vessels on Hatteras Island. Harbor House Seafood continues to source all our Snapper Grouper species from F/V Prowler.
In 2016, Alana graduated from Wake Forest University and returned to the family business in Hatteras Village. Bringing her education back into her community she hopes to preserve the local fishing heritage. She is active on the Dare County Working Watermen Commission and is a supervisor for Dare County's Soil and Water Conservation District.