BY RACHEL VON FLECK
SAN DIEGO – Two days of fishing. Two days of opportunity. Sometimes you get lucky and have two days of incredible fishing, other times neither day is productive. On our WON charter aboard the Sea Adventure 80, we had an even split between our days. The first was a killer bite with non-stop action. The second presented us with little beyond rough seas and tough conditions.
Our first morning started out slow and relaxing. We ran over 120 miles south to go after the hot dorado and yellowfin bite, which brought us to the zone shortly before 9:00 am. Some of us slept in, others enjoyed the sunrise with coffee, followed by an incredible Belgian waffle, bacon, and egg breakfast. The water was flat, calm, and beautiful. It was a change of pace from other trips I’d been on, as I’ve never missed a sunrise on a boat before, but it was happily welcomed with the thought of dorado racing through my dreams.
We started trolling and after about an hour we found a large kelp paddy that had free-swimming dorado all around, darting through the water and boiling left and right. Deckhand Josh Bonnes of Columbus, Ohio, started throwing bait, and within seconds the first person shouted, “Hook-up!” and you could hear it echo through the boat as everyone started getting bit.
The first paddy was an abrupt introduction for those who’ve never fished dorado before, me included. It was organized chaos, with rods bent all along the boat, fish being bounced over the rail left and right, and “Gaff!” being shouted from all directions. It was a beautiful sight to see!
The color range of dorado is exceptional. They explode out of the water and seem to light up in the sunshine; you see flashes of yellow, green, silver, and blue every which way as you peer into the water. As quickly as you could drop a fresh bait in the water, one of them would snatch it up and rip line, putting on a dazzling display of aerial acrobatics.
On this trip we had an incredible group of people. Some were WON charter regulars, some I have fished with on previous trips this year, and a group of 11 was visiting from Arizona, with some of them never having fished on the ocean before. The crew was fantastic and quick, assisting with directions and helping untangle fish as needed as we ran around the stern in the over/under free-for-all.
As crew member Maggie McDaniels of Chula Vista said, “The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect and the fish were everywhere. The first day was a great opportunity to catch your limit of dorado.” We also found a couple of yellowfin mixed in, but they quickly dropped out, leaving us to fill the kill box with our first-day limit of dorado for the boat. There were a couple of standout fish on this stop, with both Richard Hamilton of Encinitas and David Roschon of Santa Monica landing substantial bull dorado.
After landing 87 fish, we decided to make a move to try to find a kelp holding both yellowfin and dorado, so we could continue fishing throughout the day and try for limits on both species. Chef Leonard Miller of Los Angeles had lunch ready and everyone took a break to enjoy some delicious boat burgers and fries in the galley. The Sea Adventure 80 is one of the more spacious boats I’ve ever been on; they had plenty of seating for everyone, and prior to the distancing regulations, could easily sit 30 people in their gallery at once. We also had ample room for all of the rods and tackle, and an extremely comfortable bunk setup with many staterooms available.
As some of the passengers finished lunch and others took naps, we hooked up multiple times on dorado and some skipjack on the troll. Captain Mike McDaniels of Point Loma came over the intercom and announced there was a large paddy they were glassing with fish boiling all around. We ran to that paddy and found a similar situation as our first stop, landing another quick handful of dorado and a lone yellowtail. However, we were still searching for those yellowfin, so off we went to find another kelp.
In the crow’s nest, deckhand Connor Caddell of Yulee, Florida, spotted another one a couple miles out, and as we ran towards our mark, we hooked up on another troll fish. We found a great mixed school of yellowfin tuna, dorado, and skipjack. Another memorable dorado was caught by angler Paul Daughenbaugh of Newbury Park, which ended up taking home the Maui Jim sunglass jackpot prize package.
The speed in which we brought fish over the rail was expertly matched by the crew as they dashed around gaffing fish, stapling tags, and helping retie as needed. We had a few sponsors provide giveaways for everyone on the trip including Frogg Toggs dry bags, P-Line Laser Minnow jigs, and spools of HI-SEAS Blue Water fluorocarbon (ranging from 20- to 40-pound), which we were able to put to good use. We loaded the kill box with fish, having to drop them below deck multiple times to make room for our haul, and added 47 yellowfin to the fish hold and finished out our two-day limit on dorado.
We spent the remainder of the evening trolling and found scattered skipjack and dorado, releasing them as we looked to find more yellowfin. As the sun set and we gathered around to recap our day, Chef Leonard served up a phenomenal chicken fettucine alfredo with mixed veggies for dinner.
Day two started out very different. We woke to very rough seas and strong winds. The crew pulled the sea anchor and we set off north as we fished our way toward home. The weather was worse than predicted, with winds around 25 knots and 4- to 6-foot swells with an 8-foot ground swell. We all agreed as Captain Mike McDaniels stated, “I’m happy we whacked them the first day.”
For those of us who were fortunate enough to feel well, we were treated to biscuits and gravy for breakfast. We found a few small schools throughout the morning via kelps or the troll, but primarily caught and released more dorado. With the conditions the way they were, a lot of us spent the day either taking naps or simply trying to maintain balance as we were being bounced around by the winds and waves.
As we made our way back home, we watched the sun set, gathered our gear, and looked through photos of the prior day’s success. With the tough day behind us, we still felt victorious as we recounted our two-day limits of dorado, 80 yellowfin, and handful of yellowtail for the 2.5-day trip.