Featur Article: WON/Sea Adventure 80 Charter

WON/Sea Adventure 80 2-1/2-day charter runs hard for yellowfin and rockfish

BY BOB SEMERAU/Western Outdoor News Staff WriterPublished: Oct 16, 2019

Sea Adventure 80 is the premier sportfisher for the fall 2½-day charter hosted by Western Outdoor News each year. Continuing in the tradition of legendary service set by his father Scott, Captain Mike McDaniels has assumed the command of the 80-foot sportfisher, SA80.

Early boarding gave anglers an opportunity to stow gear, select bunks, wrangle for staterooms, and get acquainted before sign-ins got things officially underway.

SEA ADVENTURE 80 deckhand Chad Foster shows off a larger model skipjack taken by charter angler Robert McDonough.

Captain Mike gave a briefing in the galley salon, which is big enough to seat all 26 anglers comfortably, on what to expect in the coming days. Trays loaded with fresh, hot, buffalo wings helped everyone stoke up for the adventure ahead.

“Lately it’s been tough for tuna but there are yellowfin under skipjack just below the border,” explained the 32-year-old Captain. “Tonight, right after we load sardines at the bait receiver, let’s stop outside the harbor and make some mackerel before heading out to the zone,” concluded the seasoned skipper.

While loading bait, VMC hook packs and spools of Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon were handed out to each angler. Loads of raffle prizes including Daiwa tools, Rapala X-Rap and Williamson lures and more, rounded out the swag-fest. Huge spools of Daiwa J-braid and Sufix monofilament were set out for all to use respooling reels and some were empty by the end of dayone as anglers filled their reels.

About half of the assembled party worked the Sabiki to plug the tank, when, at near midnight, Capt. Mike called for rigs to be stowed and everyone hit the racks for a bumpy ride out to where the tuna had been found in recent days. Bait loaded, and mackerel made, SA 80 was given over to night driver, Captain Anthony Mazzoli, to take the fishing boat out to the zone, and hopefully, tuna. Old friends of WON charters, Rueben Gonzalez and Henock Bekele had come along for this trip and constantly added to the fun.

Daybreak came and the trolling lines were run out by deckhands Chad Foster, David Santos and AJ Ramirez. Seas built to a slightly rougher version of the overnight ride and winds continued to build slightly when at just past 6:30 a.m. the troll rods went off and Captain Mike threw SA80 out of gear.

The excitement of seeing the first fish of any trip come over the rails had everyone casting out fresh baits and jigs, when after a few minutes the skipper called to get moving with just the 2 troll fish, 10-pound skipjack, on the deck.

SCHOOLIE-SIZED TUNA showed in limited numbers for WON/SA80 charter, however, Robert Hildebrand managed a pair of yellowfin of his own.

After a few more stops for troll-caught skipjack frequent WON charter angler Robert Hildebrand was up on the troll when his designated rig began to scream. Working quickly to bring in the fish and any school there might be, Hildebrand boated the first yellowfin of the trip, the only fish taken on that stop.

Stops throughout the morning gave up loads of skipjack and many more were lost.

“Guys, you just have to start working together so we can get these skipjack on the boat,” chided Captain Mike over the P.A. “Otherwise, the yellowfin below them may never come in.”

Realizing the number of tangles and lost fish were above average for any given trip, everyone started to get with the program and the catch rate began to climb. Over 100 skipjack were tagged and bagged and 7 yellowfin hit the deck on the first day of the charter.

Local angler Thomas Galyean had a bit of trouble connecting during the first few hours of the fishing day when he opted to hang up his gear and try out one of the tester Daiwa rigs brought along for anglers to fish.

The very next stop gave Galyean a fight with a sizeable skippy while fishing a fly-lined ‘dine on the Daiwa Proteus WN 80HF 8-foot rod sporting a Saltiga 40HA reel loaded with 50-pound J-braid and a short length of 25-pound Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon ending in a 2/0 VMC hook. After running the angler across the 25-foot-wide stern and up the starboard rail, the 18-pound skipjack was gaffed by deckhand AJ Ramirez to put Galyean in the running for jackpot prize money for big fish on day one and more.

The weather did press in with higher winds and heavier seas throughout the afternoon. At one point late in the day, Captain Mike made the call that we would head north to San Clemente Island where the forecast was for kinder, gentler conditions.

As anyone with experience on the water knows, running up-swell and into the wind makes for a rollicking boat ride, but with the throttle held low to ensure a safe passage, Sea Adventure 80 arrived into Pyramid Cove and the lee of San Clemente Island at just after midnight.

ALL IN THE FAMILY, Paul Cannon and his mother Nancy Cannon served up great meals throughout the WON/SA80 charter.

Achieving the calm, safe-haven, SA80 settled on the anchor and several anglers that had been suffering during the worst of the trip north were able to return to their bunks and rest up for the action to come on day two.

A clear, calm morning broke the next day and anglers came on deck as Captain Mike got on the P.A. “We’ll fish inside for a bit and then maybe poke around offshore for the bluefin if it seems conditions have improved outside,” pronounced the skipper.

Sea Adventure 80 has been owned and operated by Captain Scott McDaniels, known as MacDaddy around the fleet, and only recently has Scott’s son Mike taken over both control and ownership of the renowned sportfisher.

“We have plans to do some major changes to the electronics aboard the boat giving state of the art safety and fish finding ability,” said Capt. Mike. “We want to build on our reputation for customer service and next year we hope to have our crew achieve their Captain’s license requirements for the added safety of our passengers.” Captain Mike McDaniels served in the U.S. Navy for a five-year period and suffered a back injury requiring 2 years of rehab. To see the young skipper move about the boat, it was obvious he is fit for service once again.

Several drifts around the area gave up few fish for the start of the day, and the time had come to make a run offshore and test the waters. A 35-minute ride south-southeast put SA80 out of the lee of SCI and into rough waters once again.

“This is still unfishable so we will head to some deep-water holes and flatter water,” came the call from the wheelhouse.

Another run, this time offshore of SCI but still in the lee, gave time for the charter anglers to rig up for rockfish. Throughout the trip WON associate Ted Reed was kept busy helping anglers by loading reels, tying knots and generally rigging up at each change. Tying double dropper loops and adding heavy weights with larger hooks had everyone ready for action once SA80 slowed and set up for the first drift offshore.

TWO-DAY BIG FISH PRIZES went to Thomas Galyean, left, WON associate, Ted Reed hands over a Daiwa tackle bag and a Daiwa Deckhand Tool Kit.

Here, the fish came over in sporadic fits with rockfish, whitefish, bocaccio, sheephead and reds getting tagged and dropped into the refrigerated sea water, RSW, hold at every drift. Angler Butch Paddock fooled a bocaccio that gave him the big fish jackpot for day two. The assorted rockfish helped to fill dance cards and give anglers a bit of action, but this trip was about tuna.

By mid-afternoon, with several moves made, the boat worked out to an area that looked fishy and promising for tuna as anglers reset to fly-line rigs and tuna jigs, primed for action. A short half-hour move had breaking fish ahead and behind SA80 getting everyone excited, as trolling rigs ran untouched.

“I see the fish and when we move in, they duck out, but we will keep trying,” said Captain Mike as the afternoon wore on, playing a game of cat and mouse with the teasing tuna. The surprisingly calm seas offshore were a welcomed change and despite the lack of biters, each stop gave a hopeful feeling to the day.

As the sun dipped into the western sea, Capt. Mike found marks deep down for the huge bluefin and the big game gear was brought out.

Several anglers had brought along the 100-, 120-, and 150-pound rigs and now tied on 500-grain Flat-Fall glow and Daiwa SK jigs to drop down 200-feet and more. The efforts made the last hours of the charter pass quickly until the time had come to head for the docks at H & M Landing.

As any angler will tell you, fishing can be tricky and fishing for tuna can be some of the trickiest. Here today, gone tomorrow. Oh, wait, they’re back! That’s tuna fishing.

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