Southern CA Saltwater

Steve Welsh pulls local cow

WON gets an update on Oceanside Harbor

BY MERIT McCREA/WON Staff WriterPublished: Apr 18, 2017

OCEANSIDE — In an amazing feat, long-time angler and past party-boat crewman Steve Welsh set the bar for the fleet early, catching an amazing local bluefin — just ounces short of 210 pounds — aboard the Oceanside 95. Plus, WON received an update on the goings-on regards Oceanside Harbor's fishing future.

CAPT. RICK SLAVKIN promised a whopper for this issue, and here it is! Steven Welch of Gardina landed this 209.8-pound bluefin tuna aboard the Oceanside 95 on a 1.5 dayer. (Welsch and Slavkin)

You'll want to read Pat McDonell's full story on the big bluefin catch in this issue, but here are the basics: Welsh whooped up on the big fish in just 35 minutes, not having any idea it was nearly as big as it was, pulling hard on 65-pound braid with a 50-pound fluoro leader. He was using an Okuma Metaloid two-speed and Phenix rod combo. Just at gray light, the big fish ate a live sardine with a 4-ounce torpedo rubber banded on the line, on the drop.

Slavkin said the offshore scene continued to heat up with yellows showing at the lower end of the large area being fished by the fleet, including fish on tern birds open-water sonar marks and breezers, just like the tuna. Anglers should be prepared with both a 20- to 30-pound stick and a 65 or 80 braid to 50-pound fluoro, 2-speed rig. They are running offshore for as long as the bite warrants.

After reading our WON article a couple issues back, Capt. Joe Cacciola, owner of boat Sea Star and part of the Oceanside Sea Center team (OSC), provided further insight and correction.

Captain Joe Cacciola and the Sea Star were not ejected or evicted from Helgren's landing. The Sea Star’s operating agreement with Helgren's expired on Dec. 31, 2016 and Helgren's chose not to renew, so Sea Star peacefully left the landing.

On Jan. 1, 2017, Oceanside Harbormaster Paul Lawrence provided the Sea Star with a slip at the "Coast Guard Dock." The Sea Star pays rent to the harbor district.

Helgren’s current lease, which expires on May 5, 2017, gives them exclusivity for sportfishing and whale watching trips from Oceanside Harbor. It is not an exclusive on all passenger-for-hire trips from Ocean­side Harbor. This can be verified by calling harbormaster Paul Lawrence or Assistant City Attorney, Barbara Hamilton, said Cacciola. In full compliance with Helgren's lease, and with full agency approval, the Sea Star has been operating Burials at Sea and student Ocean Classroom private charters only, since Jan. 1, 2017.

Helgren's Sportfishing, (Hel­gren's Oceanside Sportfishing Trips Inc.) is owned by Caroline Helgren. She is President and CEO. (Capt. Joey Helgren was previously reported as owner of Helgren's here.)

In the meantime, Helgren's lease has been temporarily extended through the summer season, beyond the May 5 date noted above.

Of course, the subject of who should win the lease with the city, or share the space Helgren's now occupies, is hotly contested. Slavkin said the matter will be discussed at this week's April 19 Oceanside City Council meeting and Helgren's requested their supporters attend and voice their support. It starts at 5 p.m. OSC has a letter-writing campaign set up on its website ( for its supporters. OSC published a press release describing who they are and their proposal for the harbor.

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