There is changing of the guard at the San Diego sportfishing landings. Rest assured, it is the kind of change that sportfishing on Scott Street is known for, bringing in new blood but building on decades of tradition.
When Capt. Bill Poole passed away in 2009, his wife and business partner Ingrid Poole controlled 50 percent of Fisherman’s Landing, and 37½ percent of Pt. Loma Sportfishing and remains the second largest shareholder at Seaforth. Ingrid is now remarried, enjoying life in Montana, and is slowly moving on, selling her interests, thus far in Fisherman’s and Point Loma Sportfishing.
FRANK LOPRESTE, IS still majority owner of Fisherman’s Landing and Seaforth, but recently the port of San Diego ok’d his partnering with Capt. Tim Ekstrom of the Royal Star and Doug Kern of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle.
The new owners are all familiar names to customers and partners.
Ingrid Poole was at the recent Fred Hall Long Beach show, visiting booths, old friends and businesses she and Bill had built or helped over several decades. She is moving into a new phase of her life. Six months ago, she sold 17 percent of Fisherman’s Landing to Frank LoPreste, 17 percent to Doug Kern (who is partners with LoPreste and a new investor — and more on that later of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle) and another 17 percent was sold to Capt. Tim Ekstrom, one of three owner/operators of the Royal Star. The San Diego Port Commission last month approved the transfer.
LoPreste told WON on Friday that soon another 16 percent owned by his ex-wife will be sold to the trio, 7 percent to Ekstrom, 7 percent to Kern and 2 percent to Frank.
“Tim and I will eventually have 24 percent of the landing and Frank will have 52 percent,” said Kern. “He’s the majority owner and he’s still the man. He and Bill built this whole thing at the landings and it’s time he’s the No. 1 guy. We’re minority owners, and I have to say we’re grateful for him to be here, and a chance to mentor us, because there’s a lot for us to learn about.”
DOUG KERN AND his equal partner Frank LoPreste in Fisherman’s Landing Tackle sold shares to longtime Tackle Manager Rick Maxa in January. Kern recently joined LoPreste and Tim Ekstrom in part ownership of the landing.
LoPreste said he didn’t make his majority ownership in Fisherman’s a key issue. Kern and Ekstrom requested it. “I could not be happier with the agreement,” said LoPreste. The three of us complement each other. Tim and I are ‘go out and get ’er done’ types, and Doug is more of the ‘Let’s write it down and think about this a little bit’ kind of guy. I don’t think we will ever have a disagreement, and if we ever do, it won’t stay that way. We’ll just sit down and revisit it.”
Kern is greatly respected and well-liked in sportfishing circles. He understands there is a calm transfer of power going on. There’s no room or time for internal struggles, outsiders and takeovers.
“What we’re seeing is an infusion of new blood, with people who care about the industry and the San Diego landings. We’re really unique; we’re three combined landings down here. It’s a changing of the guard, but it’s with people who know how it’s done, with integrity.”
Ekstrom was just heading out on a trip and told WON the opportunity has been there before, well before this year.
CAPT. TIM EKSTROM, one of three owner operators of the Royal Star, was recently approved by the San Diego Port Commission as part owner of Fisherman’s Landing with Doug Kern.
“I vacillated the first time years ago, but when opportunity finally did knock again, the opportunity to share ownership with Doug Kern was the principal reason I joined the Fisherman’s Landing ownership team,” Ekstrom explained. “The respect I have for both Frank and Doug is directly tied to their contributions and dedication to sportfishing. Their history as successful proponents of our fishery speaks for itself. My role in the team is to bring the dock perspective into future management decisions. A strong rapport with my colleagues (boat owners and veteran crewmen) will provide them a direct conduit to landing management and ownership.”
“There have been many-a past misunderstanding between vessel owners and landing management simply due to a lack of perspective on both sides. It is my goal to bridge the divide when future challenges arise. I will advocate for the vessel owners and work to achieve landing objectives at the same time. Ultimately we aspire to be the landing that every vessel owner wants to operate from and every angler prefers to patronize which already been established in many respects.”
“Fisherman’s Landing is the premier sportfishing facility in Point Loma to be certain, but there is always room for improvement… where we will focus in the upcoming season.”
RICK MAXA, LONGTIME Fisherman’s Landing Tackle Manager is now part owner of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle with majority owners Doug Kern and Frank LoPreste. “It’s a dream come true,” said Maxa.
The transition of landings ownership in San Diego doesn’t stop there. Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano, who own 22nd Street Landing and San Pedro Bait Co. and keep their long range sportfisher Independence at Point Loma Sportfishing several months of the year, bought into that landing when Ingrid Poole sold 38½ percent of her shares, the same held by LoPreste. Capt. John Klein holds the remainder of the shares.
The landing is great hands,” said LoPreste. “I just love Paul, he’s the absolute greatest guys, and that Mark Pisano, he’s a hard working son-of-a-gun. I see a really bright future for that landing. The Sea Adventure is moving over from H&M and the Dominator is back on line.”
LoPreste, then, is the man in San Diego sportfishing. Ownership in the tackle, Fisherman’s, Point Loma and Seaforth in Mission Bay where he controls 53 percent The next largest shareholders are Ingrid Poole and the landing’s longtime manager John Yamate. One thing is for sure, rumors of LoPreste stepping back and relaxing at his ranch up north with wife Kathy, who loves fishing more than anyone in the industry, are partially true. Retiring?
Not a chance.
“I love the sportfishing business too much to stop,” said LoPreste. “I run the boat (his Royal Polaris) 75 days a year, and I’ll keep doing that as long as I possibly can. As for the landings, I plan to be here for a long time. I just love to work too much to quit. Yes, I do love being at my place up north, but every morning I check in with all three landings. And I’ve told my managers, as long as you do your jobs, that will enable me to keep going up there.”
Of course, H&M Landing celebrated its 80th anniversary as the oldest San Diego Sportfishing landings with its own changing of the guard. Part owner Phil Lobred, after 37 years guiding the landing, recently turned over the management reins to Frank Ursitti, a prominent and experienced sportfishing industry veteran who has operated the boats Ranger 85, Coral Sea and Constitution from H&M Landing in the summer months and CISCO’s Landing in the winter. As part of the transition, Ursitti bought a 25 percent ownership of the business from another partner. Lobred retains his part ownership in H&M, however.
PHIL LOBRED, RIGHT, has turned over the managerial reins of H&M to Capt. Frank Ursitti. Lobred is retiring, but retains his part ownership in the landing, while Ursitti obtained 25 percent from another partner.
On a lesser, but no less important scale, Rick Maxa, who started working at the landing at age 16 and is now the Tackle Manager of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle, has bought into the tackle shop. Kern and LoPreste have equal and majority shares at the shop. Kern bought into the ownership in 1992, and hired Maxa, who is also co-host of Let’s Talk Hook-Up radio show on weekends. Maxa and Kern are also a bay bass fishing team, always in the top echelon of the San Diego Anglers Bay Bass open Tournament held in January.
For Kern, 57, bringing in Maxa, 33, was a no-brainer, rewarding loyalty and hard work.
“It happened the beginning of this year and it’s the natural progression for our operations, and he’s been involved in every aspect of the business, and he’s one of the savviest guys in the tackle industry,” said Kern of Maxa.
Maxa weighed in on his new role as owner at the tackle shop where he started as a teenager. The industry has literally seen him grow up, in person, on the water, at fishing shows and in the shop, and of course on the air, on the Saturday and Sunday 2-hour morning radio shows. The opportunity and timing of new status as part owner in the tackle shop are not lost on Maxa.
“It’s crazy. I would say it’s a dream come true. I started in started in high school tying albacore feathers when I was 16, and here I am 17 or 18 years later. It doesn’t seem real. I’ve been here at the shop longer than I’ve been around.”
He said timing of the deal in January was perfect. “There’s not a better group of guys to work for, and we are in for a really good season, so it’s not a bad time at all to own a tackle store.”
Kern is equally excited about this season. Did the fishermen blow their wad last year in that amazing season? Is there some left for another one that might be even more epic?
“Fishermen find the money when the fish bite,” said Kern. “That has never been a problem.”