Feature Article: WON/Eldorado Charter

WON-Eldorado 2-day battles wind and seas for yellowtail, rockfish and WSB

BY BOB SEMERAU/WON Staff WriterPublished: Jul 10, 2019

LONG BEACH — While loading up Eldorado Sunday evening, the air was calm with a hint of a breeze and clear skies above the 85-foot sportfisher.

At the Long Beach Sport­fishing docks, the check-in went very smoothly with bunk assignments and license checks in the tackle shop before boarding.

JOHN SRACK BOATED his big yellowtail at SCI while soaking a sardine along the kelp line. The fish is displayed by Eldorado deckhand, Seth Nighswonger.

Once aboard, the excited charter anglers began to rig up — asking what style of fishing set-up was needed and where the big boat might be headed.

“We’ve got some serious winds and waves out at the tuna grounds,” explained Captain Adrian Chavez to WON associate, Ted Reed, and this reporter, during a brief wheelhouse meeting.

“Winds look like 25 to 30 knots out there with 10-foot seas at close intervals, so what do you want to do?” asked the skipper.

After some discussion, a plan was set to run overnight for San Nicolas and possibly veer off to Santa Barbara Island, should that run get too rough.

Prior to shoving off, trip sponsor-supplied swag was raffled off and line was distributed. VMC hook packs were given to all and huge spools of Sufix monofilament were used to load up reels along with spools of Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon. A giant 2,700-yard spool of Daiwa J-braid, the 50-pound blue braid anglers are asking for on each charter, was almost completely used up in the first hours. Lures provided by Williamson and Rapala rounded out the prize pool.

Many of the WON charter regulars had come along for this much-anticipated annual trip aboard Eldorado. Regular John Srack came without his former gal-pal, Penny Fager, recently having exchanged matrimonial vows, who could not make the trip due to an unrelated shoulder injury.

John Miller and his group of guys come out whenever they can and first-time offshore angler, 17-year-old Steven Totten, Dave Bagby, Conrad and Gino Diaz were among the gang.

Carter Shuffler, from San Diego, joined the charter once again. Shuffler is a member of the Point Loma Rotary and runs a veterans fishing outing each year benefitting vets in recovery at Veterans Village of San Diego.

jorgegeorgeJORGE GEORGE BAUTISTA often fishes the WON charters and boated a nifty red off Santa Barbara Island.

Once rods were rigged and bait was loaded Eldorado headed out to sea. While night-driver, Captain Sal Russo, took over the helm of Eldorado for the long overnight run, a poker game broke out to wile away the hours, leaving a few anglers short on sleep the next day.

The drive over to San Nicolas Island was cut short when the side trip to SBI became the best option for a safe journey. Arriving offshore of Santa Barbara Island just prior to dawn, Eldorado slowed, and the hunt was on for rockfish and yellowtail.

“Start out with a dropper loop, about an 8-ounce torpedo sinker and a 2/0 hook,” explained the skipper as anglers came up onto deck to start the day.

Dropper loops, yo-yo jigs, egg sinkers and 2/0 hooks, all were tried with cut squid strips and live sardines, as Capt. Chavez made several moves around the island.

Young angler and first-timer, Steve Totten, broke the ice with a keeper whitefish. Huge reds came over the rail for angler Rick Rivera of Yucaipa, and several others.

Long-time Western Outdoor News subscriber Jimmy Cash of Norwalk loaded doubles on starry rockfish at one lucky stop.

Shortly before 9 a.m. angler Tim James of Westminster watched as his reel spun out line, waiting to set the hook. After a brief fight, James boated the charter’s only white seabass, weighing in at about 30 pounds, after soaking squid strips on a dropper loop rig.

David Rochan fishes the WON Charters when he can and connected with a keeper lingcod while working alongside SBI.

Several moves by Capt. Chavez helped to fill anglers’ sacks with reds, chucklehead, and a brute of a sheephead. Another wheelhouse conference was followed by an announcement that Eldorado would soon make the run for the tuna grounds outside of San Clemente Island.

TANKER WSB FOR angler Tim Jones taken while fishing the annual WON charter aboard Eldorado.

Just after noon the bite slacked, and Capt. Chavez warmed the engines for the run to SCI. Chavez had been working on Eldorado for just a short while, acting as a fill-in for regular skipper Jeff Villapando, who was taking time off. Capt. Chavez earned his Captain’s ticket back in 1999 and has been working boats over the years, but only recently returned from taking a break off the water. Married, and living in the Long Beach area, Capt. Chavez really likes getting his guests on the fish.

In the galley, long-time crew member Greg “Stumpy” Tate had moved off the deck and worked full time serving up great food throughout the trip. Occasionally Stumpy could be seen on deck, helping on the gaff or tossing a jig to breaking yellowtail.

The long move to waters beyond San Clemente Island gave time for rest and re-rigging for the possibility of tuna. Fly-line set-ups, sometimes with added rubber band weights, and jigs of all manners were tied on in readiness for the expected bite.

Several hours later and just before sunset, Eldorado arrived at a point 5 miles off the east end of SCI in rolling seas and blowing wind.

“Let’s get some baits out,” came the call as Capt. Chavez set up a drift over sonar marks.

In short order it became evident that the roll of the sea and high wind made the area unfishable. Trying to hang on at the rail while letting out weighted rigs, never getting below 30 feet due the drifting boat’s speed over the water, made it almost impossible to fish.

“This is not gonna work,” called the skipper over the P.A. “Let’s reel up and head over to the cove,” concluded Capt. Chavez.

Once in the settled waters of Pyramid Cove, Eldorado joined a few other boats sheltering there for the night. The anchor down, a few anglers soaked baits for a bit before calling it a night and packing away the gear.

Eldorado cook Stumpy, with an assist from night driver, Capt. Sal Russo, served up a rib-eye plate dinner that was a welcome treat after the day-long effort.

HUGE SHEEPHEAD CAME over the rail at Santa Barbara Island for anglers on the WON Eldorado charter.

The second day began as anglers came on deck long before dawn to run out baits in hopes of bagging a roaming yellowtail or white seabass, having had so much downtime the day prior.

Nothing came over the rail during the early morning hours, but after a few short moves around the east end of SCI, Capt. Chavez found a few willing biters. Calico bass along the kelp line, and an occasional yellowtail in the shallow water added to the action.

Charter sponsor Daiwa had sent along nine of their rod and reel combos including the latest Saltiga Star Drag mounted to a 7-foot, 6-inch Proteus rod with Winn Grips and Rick Rivera put that set up to work for him aboard Eldorado.

Jim Bridges of Bishop had traveled down for the charter and boated a nice-sized forkie to get things going.

A spotty bite on the mossbacks kept Eldorado on the move and after running some distance up the inside of SCI, breaking fish were found up along White Rock.

Fly-lined ’dines swam off, away from the big boat, but were often retrieved moments later with only the head remaining. Seals and sea lions in the area around San Clemente Island not only take baits off the hook but swipe full sized yellowtail right at the gaff.

While on this last stop of the trip, “Penny-less” John Srack landed a bruiser yellowtail for the big fish of the day while a few others found some decent mossbacks to put in their sacks.

The breaking fish continued to work the surface but at 1:30 p.m. the time had come for a last call of “Lines up,” and the run home to Berth 55 at Long Beach Sportfishing.

Final count for the trip showed a mixed bag and plenty of action at the two islands. For this 2-day charter, 33 anglers pulled in 8 California yellowtail, 103 ocean whitefish, 1 white seabass, 5 California sheephead, 1 California scorpionfish, 265 rockfish, 5 lingcod, 18 kelp bass, and 3 California barracuda.


Eldorado, (424) 2-ELDO-85, www.

Long Beach Sportfishing, (562) 432-8993,

JIM BRIDGES FLY-LINED a sardine at San Clemente Island for his forkie gaffed by Eldorado deckhand, Joseph.

BIG REDS LIKE this double landed by Tim Jones aboard Eldorado while fishing SBI, were typical for the charter.

TIM HARDING FISHED the kelp line at SCI for this bruiser bass and many others.

sponsorsuppliedSPONSOR SUPPLIED LINE, mono from Sufix and J-braid from Daiwa was put to use throughout the trip loading up anglers’ reels.

THE STEAK DINNER set out by Eldorado cook, Greg “Stumpy” Tate and night driver Captain Sal Russo.

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