BY BOB SEMERAU
LONG BEACH —No matter what trip is coming up, the excitement of getting aboard and the anticipation for getting fish in the coming days has everyone ready to roll hours before the appointed departure time.
Making a surprisingly quick turnaround after being out on the water on an overnight run, the 85-foot sportboat Eldorado broke away from the Long Beach Sportfishing Berth 55 docks on-time for an 8:30 p.m. departure.
The Western Outdoor News two-day charter aboard Eldorado is one of the most anticipated fishing trips of the season, and this year San Nicolas Island was the starting point to the first day’s fishing. After days of winds and larger swells, the seas laid down making a pleasant run over the 85-mile distance.
Before leaving L.A. Harbor, while the crew loaded live sardines into the bait tanks, gift packs of High-Seas Grand Slam Monofilament leader, hook packs from Gamakatsu, discount coupons for WON subscriptions and koozie’s from HUK Gear, all bundled into a water-proof bag from Frogg Toggs, were passed out to all charter anglers. There also was a gift card from HUK Gear for $100 and a 300-yard spool of Berkley ProSpec Chrome monofilament to go to the angler with the heaviest fish of the two-day trip. Berkley also sent along two huge spools of Pro Spec mono for anglers to use spooling up their reels throughout the two-days. Second-place would get a Plano gear bag.
Eldorado’s skipper for the run, Captain TJ Schlick, gave a briefing on what to expect over the next couple of days and how to rig-up for the action to come. Capt. Schlick has been running things aboard Eldorado on-and-off over the last 20 years and is committed to the boat and to giving anglers a great time on the water.
“We’ve got some wind right now, but the run should be good going out to San Nicolas tonight. We’ll stop off at Catalina to pick up some squid from our boat there and should be at San Nic before 5:00 a.m.,” explained the skipper. “We’ll start inshore and make some moves as needed. Then we’ll run back to San Clemente Island tomorrow night depending on the bite,” concluded the skipper.
Eldorado’s night driver, Captain Liz Parker, took over the helm from Capt. Schlick for the ride to the outer island, finding only slightly lumpy water on the way. Capt. Parker has been working with Eldorado as Second Captain at the wheel for this season but has had her “ticket” for 7 years, working around the SoCal fleet. Next week she plans to introduce her 10-year-old John Henry to fishing aboard Eldorado.
The slip of anchor chain running out of the chain locker in the early morning hours brought blurry eyed anglers on deck just after 5:30 a.m. Eldorado settled into a zone known for white seabass, halibut and yellowtail over a sandy bottom and anglers baited up ‘dines and lively squid on various rigs in the pre-dawn darkness. Capt. Parker came down on deck once the anchor was set offshore of the east end of San Nicolas Island to help with any action to come.
Taking the helm just after greylight, Capt. Schlick called for a move into the tidal zone nearer the island and a shot at some exotics, setting anchor once again. The current ran heavy when fishing got underway, making difficult conditions to get bit. After more than an hour without a bite the call came loud and clear ,as angler Joe Bosnich had a fish take his bait hung deep on a dropper loop rig.
After a short battle, Bosnich boated a 25-pound yellowtail, putting the first fish on deck to break the ice. Another hour moved by slowly with no other fish working the area taking baits leading to a call, “Lines up, let’s make a move,” from the wheelhouse.
A short move up-island put Eldorado squarely atop a nest of willing biters of the goatish persuasion. Dropper loops, yo-yo jigs, egg sinkers and 2/0 hooks, all were tried with live squid, squid strips, and sardines, when around 7:30 a.m. a massive sheephead storm swept the deck.
A smaller, pink-toned female came over the rail first, followed quickly by the largest goat of the day taken by Mustad Pro-Staffer, Eddie Martinez. Several more of the red, white and black males were bagged in short order as more than two dozen sheephead found their way into sacks aboard Eldorado. Deckhands Greg “Stumpy” Tate and Shawn Terrell were kept hopping, gaffing big goats and tossing fish into sacks.
A few drifts over the area yielded more of the same along with some nice whitefish and assorted rockfish. With the bite easing, Captain Schlick called for a move offshore once again.
Which, as it turned out, was perfect timing. Eldorado cook, Helen Sun, was ready to serve up scrumptious breakfast burritos for all aboard and the group did not waste time getting them down.
“Set up for 240-feet, with double dropper loops and jigs for rockfish here,” called the skipper as he set up the first of several drifts over a secret spot offshore. “These fish can
be big, so be ready for a workout,” joked the skipper.
But Captain Schlick was not kidding. An instabite on reds, various larger model rockfish and even a legal ling and some cabezon all helped to fill sacks throughout the afternoon.
After a short while, another move around the far end of the island set up on a zone where big reds would be expected to bite and several anglers scored their personal best.
Cee del Toro, experienced at fishing on the Western Outdoor News charters, bagged double reds on a squid strip dropper loop rig in 240 feet of water.
“They really kicked my butt, dragging them up from that depth,” exclaimed the former police officer.
Angler Tom Diaz bagged a large-sized “cabby” that ate his squid on the first drop in this new zone.
Late in the day, with winds blowing strongly at 15 knots, the skipper moved Eldorado closer to shore, anchoring-up off the east side of San Nic out of the winds. As darkness fell, a dinner of roasted tri-tip, mashed potatoes and beans was served up, gear switched out for the coming day, and at last, anglers found their bunks once again. Around 10:00 p.m. Capt. Parker began the run to San Clemente Island, across mirror smooth waters, dropping anchor along the outside coastline of SCI.
Stalwart anglers Cee del Toro, Hui Bu, Viet, Dao and Frislis Scifuentes comprised the early hours brigade, working the dark rail when Eldorado arrived just after 2:00 a.m. and despite staying at the rail through the rest of the night, no biters could be found.
As dawn broke clear and still, anglers filtered out to the rail and began dropping down in search of yellowtail willing to take a bait or jig. Just as daylight began to show, Capt. Parker slipped the anchor line allowing Eldorado to settle back closer to the kelp line and a frantic calico attack got underway. Big, grumpy fish came to take almost any offing, with anglers Robin Stears, Han Yong, Scottie Wildmann and Young Kim leading the charge.
After a busy hour, Capt. Schlick moved eastward along the island shoreline watching for any marks from yellowtail or other exotics on his electronics.
Captain TJ Schlick has become personally invested in Eldorado after his many years at the helm. The recent completion of a modernization and update of the two full heads on the boat has made a real difference for the guests. The captain says next will be updating the wheelhouse electronics, bringing in the latest tech in fish-finding and guidance. Living in Hacienda Heights, the skipper spends most of the season aboard the boat making back-to-back overnight and multiday trips. When he is home, Capt. Schlick spends time with his young 7-year-old daughter and two older stepdaughters.
Not finding any exotics inside, Eldorado moved off for bag-filling rockfish at a deep-water spot further offshore, south of the island.
The short 20-minute move gave anglers Jesus Padilla and his fishing buddy time to spool up their reels with fresh Pro Spec monofilament line from the giant spool brought along by WON for anglers to use.
A few drifts over a pinnacle gave up more rockfish for the charter anglers, keeping deckhand Michael Macdonald and the others busy bagging fish and unraveling a few tangles. Cee Del Toro and Jim Bridges bagged more rockfish and sheephead. Larger-sized reds, sheephead, rockfish and chucklehead obliged as loads of big fish came over the rail for most anglers fishing this particular spot aboard Eldorado.
A last, long move to the far east end of the island and around to an area known for yellowtail but only holding smaller grade bonito and calico bass. Several of the fish came over the rail but not much else was found willing to take a bait.
The call for one last drop before heading for the barn came loud at just after 1:00 p.m. and rigs were run out for a final chance at something for the sacks.
With all lines up the boat began its run back to Long Beach Sportfishing and Berth 55 as the crew broke out the day’s catch.
A quick look over the fish showed that the yellowtail taken the day prior by Joe Bosnich held up as the heaviest fish of the trip and the HUK Gear $100 gift card and spool of Pro Spec line was awarded to the lucky angler. Eddie Martinez’ mega-sheephead was a close second, earning him the Plano gear bag.
The long, smooth ride back gave all a chance to hit the racks, while the crew completed the task of filleting fish and cleaning the boat.
With so many sheephead in the catch, several anglers shared recipes other than the usual steaming method for preparing the delicious fish. This recipe sounds especially good and easy to fix:
- 2 pounds of sheephead fillets
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 small onion or 4 cloves garlic (to taste), minced
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- Fresh dill to taste
- Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the fillets with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Cover with butter and place in a greased baking dish that is not too tight for the fillets. Mix together the parsley and onion and place them around the fish. Sprinkle some olive oil and dill on top. Bake for 12 minutes or until done.