Over the last 18 years, Justin Fleck has been putting hopeful anglers solidly on fish in some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The captain of the sportfisher Excel, Fleck has a love for fishing that may have come naturally. His father was the original chef on both the Royal Polaris and the Cape Polaris – two of the premier Poole Boatyard-built long range sportfishers in the San Diego fleet. With that connection, one might think that it would be a given that he caught his first fish aboard one of the dozens of boats that make up the world’s largest collection of live bait sportfishing vessels, but surprisingly enough, and like thousands of kids over the past several decades, Justin actually caught his first fish at the Kid’s Fishing Adventure at The Day at the Docks.
If you happen to be in Mitch’s Seafood by Fisherman’s Landing, there is a picture on the wall there of Justin with his two brothers taken that very day. He was just three years old, and to the best of his memory of that first fish caught: “I believe it was a mackerel”. To an old salt, that mackerel might just be another bait in the bait tank, but to a kid fishing for the first time it can be a whopper that produces elated grins, peals of joyous laughter, and eyes wide with excitement. From that point on, Justin was hooked on fishing. “We fished as much as possible – lakes, rivers, ponds, and of course, the ocean. I would tag along with my dad on the sport boats whenever I could”
After graduating high school, he followed his father’s footsteps, crewing on the Searcher (formerly the Cape Polaris), splitting his time between the galley and the deck. In 1997, he landed a job as the assistant chef aboard the Excel and by the time he was 23, he achieved his captain’s license and soon after moved up from the ‘second ticket’ to the first.
The Excel is one of the go-to sportfishers in the fleet for anglers in search of mid to long range exotic species like wahoo, and big ‘cow’ yellowfin tuna to over 300-pounds. The vessel’s 28,800 gallon fuel capacity offers the range to reach the finest fisheries in the eastern Pacific. Taping out at 124-feet in length and with a beam of 32-feet, the vessel is fitted with the very best gear – including top of the line electronics, stabilization, modern staterooms, and with the ability to keep tons of fish, the largest fish hold in the fleet.
The 2019 Day at the Docks takes place on Sunday, April 14th at the Scott Street Sportfishing Landings in Point Loma. Please be aware that coming down to the event might inspire not only a lifetime of love for the ocean and especially sportfishing, but a career and lifestyle that a young angler’s dreams are made of.
Festival Highlights Include
- Open house aboard boats in the fleet welcoming one and all;
- Fishing and boating “how-to” seminars presented by an all-star lineup of captains and fishing experts;
- Exhibits by more than 200 fishing tackle and boat manufacturers and community groups;
- Marine art, clothing and accessories;
- Cooking demos by local chefs;
- Fish fillet demonstrations;
- Live music and entertainment;
- Contests and prizes for casting and knot tying;
- Free fishing areas for kids;
- A captains’ dunk tank;
- Drawings for thousands of dollars in prizes;
- Boat rides around San Diego Bay for just $3 per person
Parking is at a premium around the Landings, but FREE parking is available on Shelter Island and FREE round-trip shuttle service to and from the festival is offered from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For complete information on Port of San Diego’s Day at The Docks activities and schedules, visit http://www.sportfishing.org.
Written by Daniel Powell for San Diego Sportfishing Council