Feature Article: WON-Eldorado Charter

WON-Eldorado 2-day charter runs to SCI and San Nicolas for white seabass and more

BY BOB SEMERAU/WON Staff WriterPublished: Jul 13, 2018

LONG BEACH — The Western Outdoor News – Eldorado charter out of Berth 55 in Long Beach Harbor is one that sharp-eyed anglers will watch out for every year.

“We’ve been out on WON charters before and it’s always a blast!” said charter regular Penny Fager, who always fishes with guy pal, John Srack.

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

winningbuttakenWINNING ’BUT TAKEN by seasoned angler Jorge “George” Bautista, right and displayed on the gaff by Captain Sal Salazar. The 44-pound halibut gained Bautista top-spot and a pair of Costa Sunglasses valued at $250.

Once all of the charter anglers were checked in, Captain Sal Salazar took Eldorado out of the slip and along the inner waters of Long Beach Harbor, heading to Nacho’s for bait. Fortunately, the squid were fresh and plentiful.

While hundreds of scoops of live candy bait were carefully loaded into the tanks, the time for raffle prizes was at hand. As everyone gathered ‘round the deck, swag and raffle prizes sent along by trip sponsors, Costa, Yo-Zuri, Sufix and J-Braid, Williamson Lures, and VMC Hooks was doled out. Hats from Daiwa and Costa completed the prize pool.

The anglers, helped by Eldorado’s deck crew, loaded up reels with the J-braid X-4, in blue 50- and 65-pound-test from huge spools brought along by WON. Some anglers loaded the supple and strong, blue or clear Sufix monofilament in 20- and 30-pound test onto their reels. Deck crewmen Chad Foster and Greg “Stumpy” Tate teamed up to load reels with J-Braid and Sufix whenever anyone needed assistance.

As a special plus for the WON charter anglers, Eldorado’s cook, Brian Smith, kept the grill open all evening to give everyone a chance to get a burger (or two!) while riding out to SCI.

“San Clemente Island has a few spots of yellowtail and the reports show windy conditions offshore,” explained Capt. Salazar over the P.A. “So, let’s start out at the cove (Pyramid Cove) and work our way along that shore to head over to San Nicolas Island tomorrow night, if conditions improve,” concluded the skipper.

FIRST FORKIE OF the trip was nailed by Tim Trost, right, displayed by deckhand Greg “Stumpy” Tate.

The drive over to San Clemente Island was relatively smooth and night driver, Captain Paul Silbert, delivered Eldorado into the cove a half hour before gray light.

“Use a small egg sinker, about 1⁄4- to 3⁄8-ounce and a 2/0 hook; or start out with a dropper loop and about a 10-ounce torpedo sinker and a 2/0 hook,” explained the skipper as anglers straggled up onto deck to start the day.

A sluggish start gave up some pesky blue perch and Eldorado was moved off to China Ridge, along the backside of San Clemente Island, to begin the hunt. Dropper loops, yo-yo jigs, egg sinkers and 2/0 hooks, all were tried.

Shortly after 8 a.m. WON angler Gary Hughes watched as his reel spun out line, waiting to set the hook. After a brief fight, Hughes boated the only seabass of the day, weighing in at about 18 pounds.

Capt. Sal kept Eldorado on the hunt, moving ever westward in search of willing biters. Other than a good number of calico bass, and a smattering of rockfish, the one seabass would be all the boat could show for the day. The skipper set up shop in West Cove to allow a leisurely steak dinner before heading across to San Nicolas Island around 9 p.m.

With both the second captain, night driver Paul Silbert, and Captain Sal sharing duties across the 50-mile trip to San Nicolas, Eldorado arrived and dropped anchor just after 2:30 a.m.

pennyfagerrightPENNY FAGER, RIGHT, bagged her first-ever white seabass, shown here by Capt. Sal Salazar, center, and gaffed by Greg “Stumpy” Tate, left.

The previous evening, many anglers had planned to hit the rail on arrival at San Nic in hopes of finding some white seabass action. This reporter, along with a half dozen other hardened anglers made good on that promise, while the balance of the group remained comfortably dreaming the night away. Capt. Silbert helped on deck, offering advice on how best to fool the elusive “ghost fish,” giving encouragement to the weary group at the rail.

Gray light came, and the sun rose (as did most of the angling group), before even a single fish took a bait being offered through the night.

Angler Tim Trost came on deck just after 6:30 a.m. and tossed out a dropper-looped squid, which was quickly eaten by a sizable yellowtail, making his reel scream. Angler Trost was led across the stern, along the rail and back again until finally, the forkie came to gaff for deckhand Greg “Stumpy” Tate.

Shortly after that lady angler, Penny Fager, managed a good-sized white seabass with the encouragement of her guy, John Srack, and coaching assistance of Captain Sal at the rail. The bite was on and off for a while with several more white seabass coming to hand.

Jonathan Stevens of Fontana, managed an 18-pound white seabass of his own during that first flurry of action at San Nicolas Island.

Charter sponsor Daiwa had sent along three of their rod and reel combos, including the latest Saltiga Star Drag mounted to a 7-foot, 6-inch Proteus rod with “Tube Grip” and Leonard Felix put that set up to work for him aboard Eldorado. “It’s amazing how smooth this reel is and the power in the rod can easily support the 65-pound J-braid we’re using,” beamed Felix from the rail.

RON FOGARTY GOT slammed by this sheephead while dropper loop fishing live squid at San Nicolas Island.

David Rochan often comes out on the WON Charters when he can. Rochan worked hard but, like this reporter, was unable to connect with the “right” species during the charter.

Captain Salazar moved Eldorado along the length of San Nicolas to spots known to him and a very few others. Fishing nearby was the six-pack charter boat, Options, also coming out of Long Beach. The two boats shared some intel, which would prove to be a valuable asset throughout the day.

Mid-morning saw a two-fish hook-up for anglers John Srack and David Totten. Srack fought the good fight but lost the fish without seeing just what had taken his fly-lined squid. Totten, on the other hand, kept at the fish on his line for nearly 30 minutes, leading deck crewman Barron Matlock to guess it to be a black seabass of over 100 pounds.

Matlock was right. When the fish came alongside the stern at last, the huge black seabass could easily be recognized. With the fish estimated at well over 100 pounds, the effort to settle the fish back into the depths with a descender rig became unnecessary as the big black seabass slipped off and down into he water on its own.

A run offshore in search of rockfish to help fill sacks for anglers not scoring white seabass or yellowtail gave up several larger model sheephead and some decent whitefish. Anglers John Drahos, Ed Bath and Ron Fogarty all bagged big goats while out in deeper water.

With just a short bit of time remaining in the fishing day, Captain Sal moved back into the inshore waters and a spot toward the west end of San Nicolas. Several drifts gave up few fish, however, Jorge “George” Bautista was happy for the move. The angler worked the rail up toward the bow, soaking a dropper looped squid in the 20-fathom waters. After a few minutes touching bottom his rig went off and the fight was on as a big fish took his bait and moved out.

jacobthompkinscaughtJACOB TOMPKINS CAUGHT his first-ever WSB while on this, his first-ever offshore trip. Six-pack boat Options moves in background coming alongside to pick up some much-needed live squid.

Bautista, a seasoned angler and frequent WON charter guy, handled the fish well and boated the jackpot winning fish in just a few minutes. The 44-pound halibut put the angler in top spot for both the boat money and the Costa Sunglasses given by WON as trip prize for the big fish.

During another drift, young Riverside angler Jacob Tompkins nailed a white seabass that would be marked down as his first-ever game fish on his first-ever offshore fishing adventure.

As Eldorado worked its way eastward along San Nicolas’ outside shoreline, the call came from Captain Wes Fleech, aboard Options, that his scope was “lit up with marks” at the west end of the island.

Then it was “lines up” and a quick run back to the west for a last-ditch effort to put fish in the bags.

Despite the many marks on the fish finders, no biters could be found. A couple of drifts and an extra hour fishing beyond the usual scheduled return, gave up no game fish and only a few calico bass for the effort.

Then came the call to head for home and the lengthy 7-hour ride back to the docks at Berth 55, Long Beach Sportfishing. Rods were racked, and lines clipped before most of the charter anglers headed below to the bunks for a rest during the ride home.

The chance of getting white seabass, yellowtail and halibut while fishing aboard a well-run boat like Eldorado is what WON charters are all about. This trip gave up some of each, and also gave everyone memories of a great time fishing together with family and friends at far off San Nicolas Island.

For more information or to book a trip: Eldorado, (424) 2-ELDO-85,

Long Beach Sportfishing (562) 432-8993,

jonathanstevensJONATHAN STEVENS, RIGHT, found the best combination to nail this 18-pound WSB at San Nic, shown here by Captain Sal.

plentyofswaagPLENTY-O-SWAG provided by WON charter sponsors, Costa Sunglasses, Daiwa Fishing Rods and Reels, Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon, VFMC Hooks, Williamson Lures, and Sufix Monofilament.

steakdinnersetSTEAK DINNER SET out by Eldorado cook, Brian Smith.

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