DANA POINT – Growing up in San Diego, I came up only fishing the sport boats based between Point Loma and Oceanside. It wasn’t until I took a job in Dana Point that I finally fished another operation, Dana Wharf Sportfishing. It didn’t take long for me to dig the operation, with painless parking, clean boats, friendly crews and captains willing to burn fuel to get the job done. It also took me exactly one day to notice “Peggy,” who I would later find out, is the epitome of the regular customer of a specific sportfishing landing.
On my first trip out of Dana, Peggy Stein was on the same boat, and I noticed she was posted up in the stern corner for longer than average for a 1/2-day trip. I foolishly assumed she was a newbie who just happened to get on the boat first and get that coveted spot. One of those passengers who stay there all day because they don’t know better, or the kind that pick a spot and claim it as their own for the day by design.
Then, I started to pick up on a different story. This lady was on a first name basis with the crew, she knew her way around the boat and what she was talking about and she had nicknames for a couple guys I mentally tabbed as regulars. I believe “Jackpot Joe” was one of them. She also whacked fish like it wasn’t her fiftieth rodeo. Now with all the evidence in hand, I realized this was not a kook monopolizing the stern corner out of ignorance or anything else. This was different. This was earned. This was… royalty.
I further clarified the Peggy picture during many of my local trips out of Dana Wharf in the many trips that followed. If she wasn’t on the same boat as me, she was hopping on another, or maybe when I was about to board the afternoon half-day, she was getting off the morning one. Then I saw her on the landing’s website and featured on their brochure. Finally, I had to say something on the way back to Dana Harbor after a 3/4-day trip.
“Every time I fish Dana Wharf, you’re either on my boat, or you’re hopping on or off another boat,” I said after introducing myself, a year or so before I joined Western Outdoor News. “How often do you fish?”
“I fish every day but Christmas and when my family visits,” the Dana Point local said.
The idea of interviewing her and getting more into her story popped into my head several years ago once I settled in at WON. It kept getting back burnered for various reasons, but now that no one is getting out on sportboats, I figured this is the perfect time to do a Q&A session with her, if for no other reason than to see how life is for someone who fishes more than anyone I know and now can’t.
It went down like this:
I once asked you how often you fish, and you said every day but Christmas and when family visited. Is that still the case?
I slacked off a bit from fishing seven days a week back when I first started about 10 years ago. My kids kept telling me to go, and I got hooked. About six months in, it got serious. Now I try to go out at least three times per week.
How do you decide what kind of trip you’re going to go on, half-day, ¾-day, and so on?
I try to rotate boats because I don’t want the guys getting tired of me (laughs). I call the night before and see what boats are going out and how many people are booked, especially when it gets busy. I prefer the lighter loads rather than going out with 60 people.
What are some of the craziest things you’ve seen or experienced in all those days on the water?
I’ve seen a lot of stuff and different personalities. Everybody gets grumpy once in a while. I get grumpy once in a while. And it’s always exciting to see whales and big, ugly hammerhead sharks.
As someone who fished daily for years and now several times per week as a rule what advice can you give someone who fishes the coast from sportboats?
I think the most important thing is listening to the Captain, because he’ll tell you how deep it is, what size weight, hooks and bait to use. The Captains and crew are all great. I think that’s the main reason someone becomes a regular. Dana Wharf is the only place I’ve ever fished.
This has to be the longest layoff you’ve had from fishing since you started fishing.
Yes, and it’s hard. I walk and read a lot. I also think the thing that keeps me going are the poor conditions right now with the weather and red tide. I wouldn’t have been going out anyway.
What’s going to be the first trip you go on out of Dana Wharf when you can?
The first one I can get on. I’m worried they won’t let older people go (due to COVID-19) right away. If the 3/4-day isn’t full, I’ll probably go on that.
I know you also fish Dana Wharf’s halibut drift trips. What can you tell someone who is considering on going on one of those for the first time?
Well, sometimes you can have a 9-hour day and not even get a bite, but I think it’s addicting. Maybe you catch a halibut on one of those trips, then you’ll want to go again and maybe catch a bigger one. I was trying to get on every halibut trip there was.
What else do you like about Dana Wharf Sportfishing?
I think all the boats are great, and I like fishing with the other people that fish there a lot and the kids. The kids that do Dana Wharf’s summer camp come out of that such great fishermen, and I think I’m going to ask Donna (Dana Wharf General Manager Donna Kalez) if I can go on some of those trips with the kid. I’d like fishing with them.
“Everyone loves her, passengers and crew,” said Kalez. “She only fishes Dana Wharf, and we love her. She holds the record for the largest halibut in our derby, and she fishes hard. All the captains will say they are amazed by her determination.”