Rotary Club of Morro Bay President John Solu, Lisa and Ron Casey, owners of Virg’s Landing, Michael Williams, RCMB membership chair, and Lue and Joe Case. Photo submitted
Earlier this month on a Tuesday about 1:30 p.m., I was walking up the boat ramp after attending a regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Morro Bay. Suddenly I was distracted by a parade of fishermen carrying their netted bags full of fish. Obviously, they were homebound after time at sea.
My brain jumped from musings about the many facts and stories Rotarians had just learned from Morro Bay resident Tim Bridwell. He is the presentations coordinator for the Friends of the Elephant Seals. As a docent Bridwell has learned just about everything anyone might want to ask about the mammoth Elephant Seals at the Piedras Blancas Rookery, just north of Hearst Castle.
Aha! Morro Bay’s sportfishing season started May 1. Happy fishing days were anticipated through December – weather permitting. And I was happy to see these fishermen had scored, because my newest friends in Rotary are Ron and Lisa Casey, who purchased Virg’s Landing as of November 16, 2022. They intended to follow in the august footsteps of founders Virgil and Sharon Moores, who brought live bait fishing to Morro Bay in 1954.
During our interview for this article, I learned how much they had accomplished during the last four months to be ready for season opener of their fleet, including the Rita G and Fiesta.
Ron and Lisa gave a shout-out to their managers Gambit Ruiloba and, Chris Trujillo, for going above and beyond. “They have made this transition so easy for us,” said Lisa.
“Bookings are going well,” said Ron. “We average 10-15 per day with many charters sold out. Of course, the weather hasn’t been terrific for business.”
Lisa, who claims Ron can fix anything, admitted she doesn’t know everything yet about the business, but “I know how to listen.”
She’s enjoying the learning process taking care of the books, processing fishing licenses — the tasks go on and on. Besides sportfishing Virg’s Landing has a tackle and bait store and offers private tours, and whale watching.
Lisa spends four to six days a week in the store. “I know it will be more during the season,” she said. “We go back to Hanford and Clovis as much as we can to spend time with the kids and grandchildren.” As of this writing they just returned from welcoming the birth of their 16th grandchild, a healthy boy.
At first, Ron appears to be stoic and all business. I quickly discovered business to him means being focused on their new family business, but also reserving time for their immediate family and making time to link into the community he is now serving.
He explained besides the day-to-day running of the new business, the Rita G needed to be re-powered. She now has two new engines. The Fiesta was due and passed its biannual Coast Guard certification. The costs kept coming, and they had another major decision to make. Could they afford to continue funding the beloved John Rowley’s Biggest-Baddest Lingcod Competition? It didn’t take long for Ron and Lisa to understand the competition was more than a community tradition that needed to continue. It is a marketing strategy that made good business sense.
Check out Virg’s website at www.virgslanding.com and see how much fun this is for seasoned and newbie competitors. For an investment of $109, fishermen spend a day fishing. “Qualifying is easy! Each trip the largest lingcod of the day is weighed by the crew on the boat, the angler is recorded, and the tackle shop logs it into the day log. At the end of every week, the largest lingcod of the week on any trip going out of the landing is selected and entered in the end-of-the-year competition. During the December fish-off, three anglers split. The jackpot of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000.”
You have to be in it to win it! No wonder, they were voted the 2023 People’s Choice Award for the best of the best charters, an annual readers’ poll produced by New Times of San Luis Obispo.
So how did the Casey partnership begin? Ron and Lisa attended Hanford High School at the same time, but it was years later before they met. They competed against each other in a billiards competition. The fun-loving couple reacted with Ron smiling and agreeing as Lisa quickly chimed in that she won the competition. They’ve been married 17 years and have raised a blended family of five kids now in their 30s who have given them 16 grandchildren.
Ron is retired U.S. Navy. He served on the USS Cincinnati, a LCS (littoral combat ship), the USS Phoenix, a Los Angeles class attack submarine, and the USS Asheville, one of two U.S. Navy gunboats. He was curious about the DSRV-Avalon on display almost across the street from Virg’s at the Morro Bay Maritime Museum. He explained, “One of the ships I served on had a mission to transport the Avalon.”
Ron spent the last ten years as maintenance manager in the Fresno office for Vitro Architectural Glass, a national company that produces window/glass products for large commercial buildings and developments.
Lisa loves kids, first her own – well maybe grandkids first – and then the many children that attended her large day care business over the years.
Vacation time for the couple was often Morro Bay and Monterey. They booked many fishing trips with Virg’s Landing. So, after the kids were all settled into their careers and family lives, and after they decided and finished the remodel of their 2,000 square-foot home in Hanford, they noticed Virg’s Landing was for sale. The call to move to the Central Coast was strong. They were ready to begin their next careers in a business they would build together. A month after talking to the owner, they made an offer and put their Hanford home on the market. Ron continued to work through December. When the business closed in November and their house sold just as quickly, they moved to their temporary quarters on a horse ranch in Arroyo Grande. And that might be another story for another day! As time and energy allows, they intend to find their Morro Bay dream home maybe even by the end of the year.
Ron and Casey believe in becoming active members of their new Morro Bay community. For example, Ron approached the Rotary Club of Morro Bay for potential membership soon after he settled into the business. His mom and dad, Joe and Lue Casey, had involved him in many Rotary Club of Hanford Noon activities. Joe has been a Rotarian for 45 years and served multiple leadership positions in the Hanford club, including club president as well as Rotary District duties.
It was a proud Tuesday in April 2023 for father and son – mother and wife – when President John Solu invited Joe and Lue to pin Ron, recognizing him as the newest member of the Rotary Club of Morro Bay.
I encourage our readers to get to know Ron and Lisa Casey. In fact, let’s all go fishing!