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Albacore fishing raises the ‘fever’ in even the most docile of anglers, and it ramps up exponentially when the fisherman in question is a highly experienced saltwater angler.
An immediate sense of urgency surged through Captain Trent Slate of Shelter Cove Sport Fishing on the morning of September 9, once the opportunity to run offshore for tuna received a collective thumbs-up from his group of six lucky passengers.
Within seconds, bottom fishing rigs were being exchanged for troll and swimbait rods by second captain and deckhand Jerad Morris, while Slate was running to the local gas supplier to fill numerous fuel cans. After fueling up, snow ice was stuffed into the fish boxes, and we were off on an adventure.
Taking advantage of the flat calm ocean conditions, a report of 20 albacore taken by the lone private boat out of the area on Saturday, and the added information of the heavy scores landed by Captain Kevin Browning of the Ambush out of Noyo Fish Center in Fort Bragg the previous two days, Slate was itching to get blood on the decks.
Browning had posted scores of 72 and 58 longfins the previous two days working further south, in addition to ending Friday with a 5-way hookup on dorado in the 14 to 20-pound range. Since Browning located the fish further north on the subsequent day, Slate speculated the tuna could possibly be as far north as Gorda Canyon and could be intercepted on their journey north.
Fishing for albacore could have spawned many of our cliche sayings in American English such as ‘You should have been here yesterday,’, ‘It’s either chicken or feathers, ’’Strike while the iron is hot,’ ‘Make hay when the sun shines,’ and the time-honored lament, ‘That’s why they call it fishing and not catching.’
Searching for tuna is a roll of the dice, a crapshoot at best, particularly in a remote location such as Shelter Cove where few boats are on the hunt, but there is something there that lights up the ‘fever’ for fishermen to take the chance, open up their wallets for fuel, and make the run for the opportunity to pull on something hard.
So a day removed from great action for huge rockfish and lingcod off of Punta Gorda, we were on our way to the numbers 40 miles offshore in a hunt for birds, bait, and jumpers. After finding the markedly blue water at this distance, we put down the lines and immediately had a triple, including a fish on a meat line. We thought we were in them for big numbers.
We hit another double right away and things were looking on the optimistic side. Suddenly, as quickly as they arrived, the fish disappeared after the early period of pandemonium, and the action wouldn’t heat up again until passenger Kurt Christensen of Willits spied a floating kelp paddy.
Just like it is written up in the textbook, Slate trolled by the paddy and two lines immediately lit up with Jim Higuchi and Christensen on yellowtail to 20 pounds. Ironically, Higuchi, Eric Holthouse of Sonoma and I were just talking about eating ‘hamachi’ a few minutes prior to these two fish striking.
Landing these two exotics was the highlight of the day, and we drifted by the paddy to throw swimbaits after putting the yellowtail in the box, but any other fish holding in the shade had vacated. With the exception of another single later in the day, this was it for the albacore action, and we headed back to the harbor just prior to 3:00 p.m.
Slate was amazed that the albacore were not biting because the water was the right temperature at 59.1 degrees with a deep cobalt blue, but there were few signs of life with only a pair of birds and no jumping fish witnessed throughout the day.
At press time, the “Fever’ had struck every coastal port in northern California from Port San Luis to Eureka with fish located off of Monterey, Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay, and Fort Bragg. The Morro Bay and Port San Luis boats were in the process of making their first runs of the year, and the added bonus of live bait present for the first time this season.
Captain Rick Powers of Bodega Bay Sport Fishing put in the first substantial numbers of tuna between Cordell Banks and the Farallon Islands on Thursday, September 13th, and the Bay Area fleet has the option to run to these numbers or south of the Farallons towards Pioneer Canyon with their bait tanks at the ready over the weekend. The experience of the opening run of a longfin on live bait is not easily forgotten.
Although the 2012 albacore season has brought fits and spurts of action out of Monterey and Fort Bragg, it appears that anglers along the rest of the coast are able finally able to bring their canning jars and pressure cookers out of storage.Back To Reports
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