Helgren’s Sportfishing moves after 40 years

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Helgren’s Sportfishing will vacate the two-story building it has occupied since the 1970s and relocate to another part of Oceanside Harbor under a deal Oceanside City Council approved this week.

Starting in December, The Oceanside Sea Center, a partnership led by Joe Cacciola, will take over the two-story wooden structure with plans to offer a combination of fishing charters, educational programs, eco-tours and ocean research. .

Helgren’s, which operates day and night sport fishing trips, whale watching tours, sightseeing tours and other charter excursions, will conduct most of its operations out of the former U.S. Coast Guard wharf that the Sea Center has been occupying for a year. Helgren’s largest boat, the Oceanside 95, will continue to operate from its current dock near the small harbor retail village, where Helgren will also have a stand-alone ticket kiosk.

“It’s a fresh start,” Joey Helgren said Thursday morning at the port. “The city has worked very hard to make all parties happy.”

For a while, however, no one was happy.

Last year, in an effort to increase its port revenue and expand services there, the city decided to put the space up for competition, giving other businesses the chance to compete for Helgren’s spot.

Until now, Helgren’s had the exclusive right to lease the city’s facilities to the port, and other operators had to sublet space from Helgren’s.

After a panel of city employees reviewed the offers, officials first announced that they would negotiate exclusively with the Sea Center. However, soon after, the city decided to try to reach a compromise that would keep both companies in the port.

The deal approved on Wednesday essentially gives Cacciola the deal he was looking for with his offer in the first place, he said.

“We’re back to where we started,” he said.

Cacciola ran his Sea Star Charters business for several years from dock space subleased from Helgren’s. Both companies have loyal groups of port regulars.

The Oceanside Senior Anglers, which has more than 500 members, strongly supported the venue change, said former group president Fred Kaczmarek.

“It’s better for the community,” Kaczmarek said.

In addition to Cacciola’s Sea Star Charters, the new Oceanside Sea Center will include San Diego-based Chubasco Sportfishing and the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research, which plans to install an aquarium in the building.

The Pfleger Institute was established in Oceanside in 1998 and focuses its research on deep-sea marine fishing.

“The aquarium is going to be an attraction in itself,” Kaczmarek said.

More than $65,000 in upgrades, including new doors, windows, lighting and an exterior staircase, are planned for the Sea Center building, Cacciola said.

The 10-year lease beginning Dec. 1 requires Sea Center to pay the city a minimum of $3,000 per month or 6% of gross revenue, increasing to 7% after five years, whichever is greater.

Helgren’s lease on the former Coast Guard space at 1350 North Pacific St. and the kiosk at 315 Harbor Drive South, also for 10 years, requires a minimum payment of $2,000 per month or 4% of gross income, increasing to 5% after two years. , whichever is greater.

Richard and Caroline Helgren brought their sport fishing business from Oxnard to the more sheltered waters of Oceanside in 1978 and built the structure it occupies today. The son took the helm after his father died in 2008.

The new location could give Helgren the opportunity to expand its six-boat fleet, said Amber Duff, landing manager for the family business. The two larger ships each carry up to 150 people and the smaller one carries six.

“We may add smaller private charters this summer,” Duff said.

“We can’t wait to see how this all turns out,” she said. “But we are confident that we can continue to provide the services we have always provided to this community.”

City Council also approved a new lease on Wednesday with Oceanside Adventures, which runs whale-watching tours on a 50-foot catamaran.

All of the leases were approved together on a single motion with no comments from council members or city staff as part of the meeting’s consent schedule.

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Twitter: @phildiehl

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