San Diego County sportboats back in business

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Sunday approval of the fleet’s health guidelines clears the way to open immediately

SAN DIEGO – Relief came in the nick of time for the San Diego County sportboat fleet when the Health Department signed off on sanitation and distancing protocols developed by the Sportfishing Association of California… on a Sunday.

Clearly, those involved realized the urgency of the situation. SAC President Ken Franke had warned the County Board of Supervisors a week earlier that a financial point of no return was coming.

“Every year the fleet has to run at least 70 days to break even,” Franke said. “We always figure before and after that’s where you make the money to pay for maintenance in the next year. The money that pays income for the family. We were getting close to not being able to have that 70 day window.”

The boats had been shut down as a response to COVID-19 for more than 80 days, and in that time sustained a significant financial hit. It was hard to understand why sportboats had been given the green light in most other coastal counties of the state, but not in San Diego, location of the west coast’s largest and most economically important fleet. Many jobs depend on it.

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Franke expressed gratitude and relief at the timely action. “Thankfully, the San Diego Board of Supervisors stepped up and helped with regard to contacting the state,” he added. “I have to honestly say the county was actively updating their info on sportfishing and outdoor activities, and we really appreciate that they worked on a Sunday morning to help everyone, displaying extreme urgency to complete getting the fleet in order.”

The fleet wasted no time in getting back into action. Boats were already running Monday morning – and catching fish!

Franke acknowledged the environment is a little different for the angling customers and added that the people are willingly following the guidelines mandated by the County. The changes are immediately noticeable. Placards were installed and signage promoting social distancing painted on the docks and on the entry sidewalks.

“The customers have been really good about doing social distancing and giving everybody plenty of room,” Franke said. “The nice thing for customers is the boats are running at reduced passenger capacities. You have way more room to fish so have fun.”

It’s prime time. “This week we’re expecting flat water and good fishing,” Franke said. “SAC will have a plane up Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.”

In the days leading up to the reopening, SAC had been coordinating an outreach campaign designed to motivate state and county leaders. Franke said the effort paid off.

“Anglers did an awesome job of sending letters both to the county of San Diego and the state of California. We sincerely appreciate it. You made a difference.”

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