Get To Know Fishing Guide Captain Donnie

Fishing guide Captain Donnie O’Neal began boating and fishing and enjoying life on the water at a young age.  His motto has always been and will continue to be ‘Quit Wishin, Go Fishin’. With over 20 years experience and as the owner and operator of SeaPlay Sportfishing, Donnie will show you all the fishing hotspots off the Galveston coast.
Did you have any jobs or a career before becoming a fishing guide?  If so, how did you make the transition to becoming a fishing guide?

I have been running boats as a profession since about the age of 20. All I ever wanted to do was drive boats and I’ve been lucky enough to make my passion my livelihood. I have operated sportfishing boats from Florida to the Bahamas, Mexico to the Gulf Coast and I have owned and operated my own Charter Company for the last 20 years.

Can you tell us about your boat and the type of equipment you use for your tours?

I own two boats, a large center console and larger diesel powered sportfish. I’m very proud of both of these boats and work really hard to keep them both in top notch condition and ready for a day’s fishing at a moment’s notice. My tackle is the best I can afford. We use Penn, Shimano, and Avet. 

What is your favorite fishing spot and why?

I love to fish offshore because you never know what Mother Ocean is going to give you. I remember my first marlin – the best way I can describe that experience is “if you’ve ever imagined a cow jumping out of the water – that’s a big blue marlin’!

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

There aren’t many boring days for me, we fish 365 days a year, but without a doubt my least favourite chore is “getting in the hole” – meaning getting in the bilges and working on the engines.

What does an average day look like for you?

An average day for me starts at 4:00 to 5:00 am and usually consists of getting bait or preparing for that day’s charter.

What is the best part of your job? What is your best memory when it comes to guiding first time fishers?

Believe it or not, the best time of the day is early in the morning, prior to that day’s fishing trip.I use the freshest bait possible so that means catching my own, which I really enjoy. When it comes to first timers, it’s the thrill on their face the first time they feel that tug at the end of their line.

When you’re not busy guiding tours – what’s your favourite thing to do? 

Being a guide, there is always something to do; maintenance on engines, cleaning boats, buying or repairing tackle.

In your view, what makes a good fishing guide?

The best fishing guides have the patience to show their anglers how to properly fish and also the patience to wait for the bite to “turn on” on those slow days.

Have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?

If you are considering a guided fishing trip I think the best thing you can do is call the guide and ask questions. What are you catching? How’s the weather? What’s your cancellation policy? And something that a lot of people forget is to look at the boat you are chartering and ask, “does it look well maintained?”

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