Our Own Buoy

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Getting ideas Nick?


Lol Just curious.

Off the Washington coast albacore really don't hang on structure like many other species. A few yellowtail get caught under kelp paddies and logs and such off our coast, but they aren't in our waters in numbers that would make such efforts worth it even if it was possible.

Not sure how deep they are setting these buoys out of Hawaii but 99% of the time here we are running out to 2000-7000' feet of water when we are tuna fishing.

Would be neat to have buoys to check though, in an area where they would attract fish like that
 
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SilverFly

Active Member
Lol Just curious.

Off the Washington coast albacore really don't hang on structure like many other species. A few yellowtail get caught under kelp paddies and logs and such off our coast, but they aren't in our waters in numbers that would make such efforts worth it even if it was possible.

Not sure how deep they are setting these buoys out of Hawaii but 99% of the time here we are running out to 2000-7000' feet of water when we are tuna fishing.

Would be neat to have buoys to check though, in an area where they would attract fish like that
IIRC, the State FAD that Mems took me to in 2017 was in 10,000+ feet of the most unreal purple/blue water I've ever seen. Allowing for some scope, that's gotta be close to 3 miles of cable to the bottom!

2017_0715_19115900.jpg

But yeah, I don't see buoys becoming a thing out here. We always check out kelp paddies and such but have yet to see a yellowtail. Although I vaguely remember a few troll albacore hookups near kelp. More likely coincidental since flotsam will collect on the rips that also collect bait.

The only thing I've caught under floating stuff offshore were those two pomfret. Just a log, with one tern diving on it. We never saw what the tern was picking up and the pomfret were down a good 80'. Judging from the solid masses showing on the sounder there were LOTS of them too. Guessing the tern was eating something really small that the pomfret were also keyed on. I also remember seeing a few large fish boil when were there. Not sure if they were YT or albacore but way too big and fast to be pomfret. Weird stuff out there sometimes.
 
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Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Yeah I know a lot of boats that will stop and throw swim baits at every piece of kelp and log they see. There are a few YT out there, but not really enough to get me to put much effort into them. One of these days I'll dumb luck into one. If we're sitting on a baitstop and a big chunk of floating something happens by, I'll throw something at it, but that's about as much effort as I put into it. Course I'm almost always out there chartering so maybe if I was just fun fishing I'd try a little harder.

Last year the day Youngblood got a handful of them under a log I was a little more interested though lol

Wow I wouldn't have guessed they were anchoring those things that deep. Thats a lot of cable!

I've caught albacore under structure here and there but not very often.

I wish sea run cutthroat hung out under buoys like that lol
 

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
I should add that I'm about 98% certain we lost a small YT at the boat last season. Thought it was a small blue a customer hooked right at the end of the baitstop, but when it got close it was clearly not a shark. It spit the hook close to the boat but a few feet down. It was maybe 18". Sure looked like a YT to me but I can't say with total certainty
 

Bowbonehead

Active Member
I have only had a chance to fish this type of structure on the Sea of Cortez around Las Cruces they were very basic made with palm fronds tied together ........ they were always good for a few Dorado on the fly
 

SilverFly

Active Member
Yeah I know a lot of boats that will stop and throw swim baits at every piece of kelp and log they see. There are a few YT out there, but not really enough to get me to put much effort into them. One of these days I'll dumb luck into one. If we're sitting on a baitstop and a big chunk of floating something happens by, I'll throw something at it, but that's about as much effort as I put into it. Course I'm almost always out there chartering so maybe if I was just fun fishing I'd try a little harder.

Last year the day Youngblood got a handful of them under a log I was a little more interested though lol

Wow I wouldn't have guessed they were anchoring those things that deep. Thats a lot of cable!

I've caught albacore under structure here and there but not very often.

I wish sea run cutthroat hung out under buoys like that lol
Nick, My time out there is a tiny fraction of what you put in, so take my observations with a big pinch of salt. That said, those of us without access to live chum like you have in Westport might have somewhat differing experiences (although I'm sure you're familiar with IQF/jig tactics, so really I'm sharing this for others who might not be as familiar with our offshore fishery.)

Anyway, having done a fair amount of fishing without the advantage of live bait, I can say with confidence that albacore will definitely key on structure that they associate with food. At least structure in the form of a boat chunking IQF anchovies. One of the benefits of chunking dead chum over live, is building a continuous trail of food that extends down, and away from the boat. Basically into the tuna "comfort zone" where (in some cases) they will follow the boat for hours.

The point I'm trying to get at, is that in spite of their highly mobile nature, it is possible to effectively use the boat itself as a sort of FAD with albacore. Of course, that also means sharks become an issue, but that's just another factor that keeps things interesting. Like you once said, it's a big chess board out there.
 
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Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Nick, My time out there is a tiny fraction of what you put in, so take my observations with a big pinch of salt. That said, those of us without access to live chum like you have in Westport might have somewhat differing experiences (although I'm sure you're familiar with IQF/jig tactics, so really I'm sharing this for others who might not be as familiar with our offshore fishery.)

Anyway, having done a fair amount of fishing without the advantage of live bait, I can say with confidence that albacore will definitely key on structure that they associate with food. At least structure in the form of a boat chunking IQF anchovies. One of the benefits of chunking dead chum over live, is building a continuous trail of food that extends down, and away from the boat. Basically into the tuna "comfort zone" where (in some cases) they will follow the boat for hours.

The point I'm trying to get at, is that in spite of their highly mobile nature, it is possible to effectively use the boat itself as a sort of FAD with albacore. Of course, that also means sharks become an issue, but that's just another factor that keeps things interesting. Like you once said, it's a big chess board out there.


Oh ya, there's no doubt that albacore will focus on anything out there that is a source of food. I've seen it where we sit on a school of fish, chumming and catching continually until we are full. Once we are plugged our usual routine is to put the boat in auto pilot, pointed towards home, and just start moving along at 5 or 6 knots towards home while we take pictures, get cleaned up, the deck hand gets setup to cut fish on the run in etc. Once everyone is ready we pick up and run towards port.

Several times in those scenarios I've seen albacore continue to follow the boat while we are moving slowly, even though we aren't really feeding them anymore. It's like they are so keyed on the boat as a food source that they just stick with us. Its pretty cool really.

One day a few years ago we drug a school probably 3 or 4 miles, going 6 or 7 knots, with me on the back deck just throwing a few chovies every minute or so.

I don't know much about fish like dorado, yellowtail, and other species that are known for hanging on structure. I know that baitfish will often concentrate on certain structure, eating the little morsels that are accumulated on the structure, but it also seems that some fish in particular like structure in general, not just food wise. My limited experience with yellowtail seems to confirm this. Yellowtail seem to ALWAYS be found under some sort of structure, even something like a small piece of wood or something drifting along. It seems, and this is just my observation, that their interest in structure goes further than just a food source, but I just don't have enough experience with those fish to really know for sure.

With albacore I believe it comes down to food pretty much always. If baitfish or some other food source are concentrated around structure, there's a good chance albacore will be there. But I dont believe they will continue to hang out under structure if the food isn't there, just because of the structure itself. I guess that's what I was getting out when I referred to structure not being a huge thing out here.

Everyone takes a different approach to this fishery of course, but at least out of our port I don't know any successful captains who are out there specifically looking for structure to find albacore. If we're trolling and come across a kelp paddy or something we'll make a pass by it just in case, but don't really go looking for it. It seems in some of those other fisheries, from what I hear anyway, that the name of the game is finding some sort of structure. I've heard that a lot for many of the California fisheries in particular.

I've honestly never used IQF, or really any sort of dead bait, as chum with the exception of tossing chovies that have died in the bait tank. I can definitely see how that would make for a change in tactics. We are pretty spoiled with our access to live bait out of Westport. We always have more than enough live chovies and boy does that stuff help for getting fish up, focused on the boat, and keeping them around.

Of course there is no accounting for the mood of the fish, and many days they have the attention span of a 3 year old kid. They'll come up for a minute, we'll catch a few, and then poof for whatever reason they're gone. Other times they try to follow us home lol.

Of all the fish I've targeted I think albacore might just be the most complex in terms of their mood, their behavior, and all that kind of stuff. Some days they are chewing the paint off the side of the boat no matter what we do, other days we can't get em interested no matter what. They seem to go thru mood changes throughout the day too. Through the course of any season we'll go through periods, sometimes several weeks, where they just won't come up for anything until a certain time of the day and then all hell breaks loose. Those days are frustrating. We'll hook a troll fish, then one or two on bait. Hook a troll fish, nothing on bait. Etc etc etc. Then at some point, basically working the same fish, we'll hook a troll fish and suddenly it seems like every albie in the ocean is suddenly in a feeding frenzy at the boat for two hours. Its pretty nuts.

When I first commercial fished for them it seemed like these were the easiest fish in the world to catch, once found. However I quickly discovered that is not the case!!


Man, I'm so jonesing to get out there in the blue water!
 

Chucker

Chucking a dead parrot on a piece of string!
I wish sea run cutthroat hung out under buoys like that lol

Twice I have found schools of pinks in the sound hanging out underneath dense patches of seaweed and stuff. Circling around, staying in the shade, picking off stuff to eat here and there. Both times we stayed with them for a couple of hours, and they only left when another boat ran over them. It was a bit like fishing a kelp paddy for dorado.
 

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Twice I have found schools of pinks in the sound hanging out underneath dense patches of seaweed and stuff. Circling around, staying in the shade, picking off stuff to eat here and there. Both times we stayed with them for a couple of hours, and they only left when another boat ran over them. It was a bit like fishing a kelp paddy for dorado.


Funny you should mention that, I've experienced the same with schools of pinks a fair amount of times. In 2015 in particular I remember the pinks not showing themselves a ton. Not jumping and finning in schools like they often do. I found that blindly fishing heavy weed lines often produced good numbers of fish as they were there, just not showing as much.
 

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
Its worth pointing out that my experience charter fishing might often be different than people sport fishing on their own, or chartering themselves.

On an albacore charter my ultimate focus, beyond safety and all that, is finding and catching albacore as quickly and efficiently as possible. One reason why I don't spend much time casting at structure in hopes of a yellowtail. I only have so much time to work with each day.

This also means I don't spend much time trying new techniques, or exploring outside the box approaches. Its hard to justify using paying customers as guinea pigs to try new stuff. There is a ton of room in this fishery for exploring new techniques, gear, approaches etc. But running a charter boat, most days, isn't the best place for that. Its the same with my guiding on the sound, the difference is that I easily can, and often do, head out on my own or with friends and just search new areas, experiment with flies, retrieves, and all kinds of stuff. All this costs me is my time and some gas money. Doing that sort of stuff during albacore season isn't really feasible as I'm generally booked up 7 days a week, running a boat I don't own, and it costs somewhere around 500 bucks or more just to fish for a day. As much as I'd love to spend days out there just messing around and trying new things, its just not really something I can do.

Basically I have a ton of experience out there, and am pretty damn good at finding and catching these fish, but my experience is chartering, so basically I take the straightest route possible to getting out there, finding fish, catching a bunch of them, and getting back home before my time is up. I would say 98% of the people I take out are most interested in just catching a bunch of these things as quickly as possible, so its not really good for business to spend a bunch of time experimenting with them.

I think this is true of a lot of charter fisheries but especially so with albacore. A relatively short window to run trips for them, going 7 days a week under a 12 hour window, which includes 3-6 hours of running time, so fishing time can be precious out there. I imagine the folks who own offshore boats, keep them moored, and get out there pretty often are able to spend more time experimenting and I'm kinda envious of that. IMO charter fishing in that environment is all about efficiency, and while that efficiency is great for business, it also could lead to overlooking things basically because in the charter world if it ain't broke, why fix it?
 

SilverFly

Active Member
Its worth pointing out that my experience charter fishing might often be different than people sport fishing on their own, or chartering themselves.

On an albacore charter my ultimate focus, beyond safety and all that, is finding and catching albacore as quickly and efficiently as possible. One reason why I don't spend much time casting at structure in hopes of a yellowtail. I only have so much time to work with each day.

This also means I don't spend much time trying new techniques, or exploring outside the box approaches. Its hard to justify using paying customers as guinea pigs to try new stuff. There is a ton of room in this fishery for exploring new techniques, gear, approaches etc. But running a charter boat, most days, isn't the best place for that. Its the same with my guiding on the sound, the difference is that I easily can, and often do, head out on my own or with friends and just search new areas, experiment with flies, retrieves, and all kinds of stuff. All this costs me is my time and some gas money. Doing that sort of stuff during albacore season isn't really feasible as I'm generally booked up 7 days a week, running a boat I don't own, and it costs somewhere around 500 bucks or more just to fish for a day. As much as I'd love to spend days out there just messing around and trying new things, its just not really something I can do.

Basically I have a ton of experience out there, and am pretty damn good at finding and catching these fish, but my experience is chartering, so basically I take the straightest route possible to getting out there, finding fish, catching a bunch of them, and getting back home before my time is up. I would say 98% of the people I take out are most interested in just catching a bunch of these things as quickly as possible, so its not really good for business to spend a bunch of time experimenting with them.

I think this is true of a lot of charter fisheries but especially so with albacore. A relatively short window to run trips for them, going 7 days a week under a 12 hour window, which includes 3-6 hours of running time, so fishing time can be precious out there. I imagine the folks who own offshore boats, keep them moored, and get out there pretty often are able to spend more time experimenting and I'm kinda envious of that. IMO charter fishing in that environment is all about efficiency, and while that efficiency is great for business, it also could lead to overlooking things basically because in the charter world if it ain't broke, why fix it?
Knowing you're more or less locked into a routine is was what I was getting at in my previous post. Definitely NOT questioning your experience.

Drifting a bit off topic here, but I know you love to experiment. So that's gotta be a frustrating aspect of running a charter. One thing I like about fishing with fly crews is, generally speaking, there's less emphasis on loading the boat. Not always the case, but I think running fly trips you'll have more leeway with trying different tactics. IQF can be a great tool to have in your box. Especially if they are being surface shy. And from my experience, it can work extremely well with fast-sinking fly lines.

Man, if this effing virus thing gets under control I would love to have you fish with Capt Randy in Garibaldi. I'm sure he'd be open to that. Not sure, but if it were a charter I think having two licensed Captains on board means we wouldn't be limited to the 12hr rule? Either way, it might be a good opportunity to take a different approach for a change. I know you're not thrilled with jigging but it's can be a great way to get the party started in conjunction with chunking IQF. The routine we seem to fall into is a couple guys up front fly fishing and jigs/swimbaits/dead baits in back. Even then fly rods can work in back once we've got a fish or two hanging. The great thing about fast sinking lines is they can play nice along side conventional gear. Usually a short cast is all that's needed to get the fly out, and sinking into the chum trail. The lines also cast well, so that doesn't mean a corner can't be cleared for a longer cast if fish start boiling a bit further out.
 

Mems

Active Member
I know you guys have to run to find temperature breaks, and look for birds and other signs. We can do the same thing, but would waste a lot of fuel and time that way. Tuna like to stay at the first thermocline and will come up to feed for a short window each hour. With a buoy you establish a feeding station, and they become attached to it as long as food is there. We will often mark big ahi down at 40-100 feet. You can get them on jigs, if they are hungry. I like poppers because they rush up and smash them. We also use live bait but bridle them and let them swim down to the depths. I cut the bottom half of the tail off and they can only swim down. We don’t have live bait unless we catch it. A love opelu is the best. When you throw live anchovy’s they will school up to the surface or swim to the boat for cover and this brings the tuna close. If you chunk you get them feeding and the work their way back to the boat. The same thing happens in the Gulf of Mexico behind shrimp boats. The Hawaiians established koas areas where they fed the resident tuna. The would throw out the scraps and the fish would take up residence. When the tuna have lock jaw and won’t feed is usually because there is a predator there. They will also fight differently and stay on top and not go into the death spiral.
I bet if you had a buoy and chummed there and cleaned fish there the albacore would also orient to it as well. It might make your charter business easier until your competition found it.
Big ahi are right around the corner here, looking forward to that.
Good luck, hope y’all can get out soon.
 

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
I know you guys have to run to find temperature breaks, and look for birds and other signs. We can do the same thing, but would waste a lot of fuel and time that way. Tuna like to stay at the first thermocline and will come up to feed for a short window each hour. With a buoy you establish a feeding station, and they become attached to it as long as food is there. We will often mark big ahi down at 40-100 feet. You can get them on jigs, if they are hungry. I like poppers because they rush up and smash them. We also use live bait but bridle them and let them swim down to the depths. I cut the bottom half of the tail off and they can only swim down. We don’t have live bait unless we catch it. A love opelu is the best. When you throw live anchovy’s they will school up to the surface or swim to the boat for cover and this brings the tuna close. If you chunk you get them feeding and the work their way back to the boat. The same thing happens in the Gulf of Mexico behind shrimp boats. The Hawaiians established koas areas where they fed the resident tuna. The would throw out the scraps and the fish would take up residence. When the tuna have lock jaw and won’t feed is usually because there is a predator there. They will also fight differently and stay on top and not go into the death spiral.
I bet if you had a buoy and chummed there and cleaned fish there the albacore would also orient to it as well. It might make your charter business easier until your competition found it.
Big ahi are right around the corner here, looking forward to that.
Good luck, hope y’all can get out soon.


I think there are many differences between our albacore fishery and other tuna fisheries out there.

The idea of basically training these fish to be focused on something like a feeding station is fun, but I have a hard time believing that it would be very effective in our waters.

First is the fact that the fish we get over here are juvenile fish that are on a big migration. These fish don't live in these waters, and ultimately are just passing through. With offshore water temps and color fluctuating daily, these fish are seldom in the same water for any length of time. One day we may run to an area that has crystal clear, blue, 64 degree water that is full of fish, and the next day we could run to the same water and find 59 degree green water and not a fish in the area. Part of the challenge with these fish is they move so much. Here one day, gone the next. I could see this being a viable strategy worth exploring more if these were fish actually living in these waters, seldom straying too far. But the fish we get are young, constantly moving, and don't really "settle down" so to speak till they become adults, which we don't really see over here.

We also don't have a very big time window to "train" these fish. They just aren't here very long.

I would think that if a continued source of food was all that was needed to concentrate fish in a certain area, then once the fishing fleet found where fish were there would be enough boats and steady supply of chum that we could basically count on those fish being there day after day, as there would be an awful lot of boats throwing an awful lot of food into the water in a relatively small area. I dunno just thinking aloud here.

I am also inclined to believe that if it was possible to mitigate the movement of these fish that the commercial boats in particular would have figured out a way to do so. I would think, and again just thinking aloud, that if such a buoy was effective on these fish that a large commercial boat could easily carry the equipment needed to setup such a buoy and then simply stay in the area with jackpoles ready and just go to work. But the commercial boats move around every bit as much as we do in search of these fish. There is a huge commercial fishery for albacore off our coast every summer, and I put a lot of stock into the methods those folks employ to target them, considering that their living is one hundred percent reliant upon catching lots of fish. If four or five commercial boats got together and formed a steady supply of chum for weeks on end in an area I would also think that if these fish could be trained then they could effectively camp out and basically create their own constant fishing grounds. But I've never seen any evidence of this.

Some day I'd love the chance to go check out other tuna fisheries, such as the ones Mems has over there, and really get a chance to compare. Would be pretty fun.

As far as predators go, I'm really not sure what we have out in our waters that is a true, consistent predator of these fish. Blue sharks no doubt get a few, but for the most part seem pretty inept when it comes to catching them. I'm sure makos get them as well at times, but one has to wonder how many makos are out there in our waters at any given time. I've definitely seen tuna fight differently when there are a bunch of sharks around, but out here they are more likely to stay deep, under the sharks, than they are to fight shallow. When there are a bunch of sharks hanging at the boat, which is common, the fish can be a real bitch to get up. They just seem to fight extra hard when the sharks are thick. This really sucks when we're hooking larger fish, as they take most of our customers a long time to land under normal circumstances.

I've yet to get an albacore on a popper, but I've seen it done many times with large poppers cast with spinning rods. I have some poppers tied up and am hoping to get one on a fly rod this summer. Its pretty awesome watching them blow up on poppers!

Another thought is that I strongly believe its possible to over feed these fish with chum. Ive seen it a lot when chumming too heavily, or when there are a bunch of boats in an area all throwing chum. It seems the fish will eventually get their fill, and just wander off. Again back to what seems like a youthful attention span I guess. I've been on the radio with commercial boats and large charter boats with ultra expensive side scanning sonars who are reporting how they are basically chasing the fish as they move off and can't keep up.

Totally random but that last statement made it pop into my head, but one thing we hear on the radio a lot, and always makes us laugh, is boats reporting on windy days that they keep getting "blown off" their bait stop. Like a determined, hungry school of albacore couldn't keep up with a 3 knot drift if they wanted to lol
 

Mems

Active Member
We get large albacore here in Hawaii, they call them Tombo, which in Japanese means butterfly, because of the long pec fins. I have caught them to 150lbs fishing at night with lights catching squid. We call this ika/shibi fishing. Ika is squid and shibi are ahi under 100lbs. You handline in the fish. It is hard work and a real test of your strength. The word ahi means fire in Hawaiian, because they used sennet lines made out of coconut fibers and when the tuna hit they sound and the rope would burn their hands, and they yelled, "Ahi" caused it burned like fire.
Some commercial guys here use floating buoys to catch the skip jack tuna. They have fish finders on it and when it is loaded use a purse seine and capture all of the fish buoy and all. That has destroyed our aku, skip jack population. If you kill the bait, you crash the system. Pretty stupid, but a cheap source of protein.
We don't really like tombo here, it sells for a couple of dollars a pound. It is ok BBQ d but not very good raw. Big eye are my favorite, but yellow fin are great as well. If you get over here during may-june you should have a shot at a gorilla, that is an ahi over 150lbs. A hairy gorilla is one over 200lbs. The fishing has been great the last couple of years. Hope it is again this year.
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Nick let me know if you ever get over here, I would be happy to get you out. I know you would have no problem with our rough water.
 

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