Investing in the Legacy of Long Range Sportfishing in San Diego
By Frank Lo Preste
This has been a truly epic year for the San Diego fleet. The success has contributed greatly to the health of the local sportfishing industry. It is inspiring to see so many young leaders building solid sportfishing operations. I got my first job on the Reel Fun operating from the San Clemente pier when I was eight years old. By the time I was eleven, I had made up my mind that fishing would be my lifetime ambition. I am entering my 48th year as a skipper and my love of this industry has grown to an immeasurable proportion. As the new year is upon us, I want to take a moment to reflect on the importance of investing in the future of sportfishing in San Diego.
Fortunately, we have an outstanding group of young skippers who are sharp, well trained individuals. They understand the importance of treating the customer with utmost respect. Obviously, good catches are very important, but cleanliness of the vessel and excellent customer service is just as critical. For these operators who eventually hope to own their own vessel, it is important that the more senior, established individuals in our industry make it viable for them to enter as owners by co-signing at the bank and carrying notes at reasonably low interest rates. Most of us who have built the sportfishing operations that passengers know and love were able to do so only because others believed in us and provided mentorship and economic support. I know that it is one of my great pleasures to provide this kind of support when I have the opportunity to do so. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the young talent in the industry and to help these folks get going.
It’s important to note, though, that these young skippers were once younger fishermen making their first trip on a fishing vessel. I worry, at times, about all the “noise” that competes for the attention of children today. A huge concern for the future of sportfishing is the modern tech world. Our young people today spend much more time indoors with their iPod, iPhone, gaming systems and Mac books than they do outdoors. It absolutely amazes me how many Southern California teens live within a few miles of the ocean, yet have never been on it or have even seen it. The Friends of Rollo fishing program, which focuses on getting kids out onto the ocean, has made me well aware of this situation. Luckily, Friends of Rollo continues to gain momentum. The organization has sent over 100,000 youngsters on ½ and ¾ day fishing trips. Many of these kids do not have the resources to experience fishing without the help of Friends of Rollo. I believe deeply that, once kids are exposed to sportfishing, many will fall in love with it as I did. They will become the young talent of the industry. Chula Vista High School even offers a fishing program where you can letter in fishing just as you do in football. We need to continue to cultivate these new fishermen!
I also think there is an enormous—and barely tapped—potential to involve more women in sportfishing. We need to get past the stereotypes and recognize that women belong on the boats. There is no reason why more ladies are not participating in the sport. Almost every gal I know, including my own granddaughters, have displayed an excellent aptitude for using a rod and reel. I often say that ladies do better at fishing than the guys because they often listen more carefully to suggestions and comments made by the skipper and crew.
Finally, when we speak about investing in the health of the sportfishing industry, we cannot overlook the importance of investing in the health of the fish stock. Recently Fisherman’s Landing, Point Loma Sportfishing and Seaforth Sportfishing have contributed $50,000 to the Hubbs Research institute to start a new program of planting hundreds of thousands of yellowtail and halibut into our local waters. This program should be fully operational in three years and is a concrete investment in our future. We need to seek out these proactive, science-based programs and help provide the resources and support they need to thrive.
I am extremely confident that the sportfishing industry in San Diego has its best days ahead. Let’s all play our part in making it so!