Westport Tuna Trip 2 September 2021

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
WFF Premium
In the cold, dark depths of January, I had arranged four tuna charters with All-Rivers and would be out on three trips in 8 days. All four trips would be with @Nick Clayton. Thursday was the first in the series, my “Friends and Family” trip. The other three angers were long-term fishing buddies of mine (including my brother-in-law). None of them had fished for albacore before.
Mike and my BIL Paul dropped by my house Wednesday afternoon for a delicious home-made lasagna. Paul headed to Westport to camp and Mike crashed in our guest room. He and I were up at 3:30AM the next morning and out the door at 4AM for a 5:30AM departure. I had put on a scopolamine patch. We were in the parking lots just at 5:30AM and Paul was just leaving his van. We geared up in our foul weather gear and carried our packs etc. to the dock. On the way down, we met our fourth angler, another Steve, who was returning to his car for something that he needed.
We met up with Captain Nick and his deck-hand Evan at the boat and they stowed our packs and other gear on the boat. We signed the releases and Nick went through a safety briefing. Evan deployed the awning that protects the outside seats from most of the spray and overwash. Paul and I took the outside seats under the awning, while Mike and Steve joined Evan and Nick in the cabin.
Then, we were off. We stopped briefly at the bait dock to load a single scoop of anchovies into the live well. Last year, we would have loaded two or three scoops of anchovies (until very late in the season when none were available); but there is a live-bait shortage in Westport. They are rationed and only available to the commercial/charter fleet. Nick guided the boat through the foggy harbor
FoggyDeparture5419Trim.jpg
around the protective outer wall and out into the mouth of the Chehalis River. Slaloming his way around crab pots, Nick passed the western end of the Westport Jetty.
The bar wasn’t bad but soon we were into the heart of the Pacific swell. Uggh, I hate this part. We would be pounding our way out for 2-2.5 hours. Nick was cruising at 16+knots and was actively throttling back and forth to avoid the steepest of the waves. But there was still water dripping down the awning and rushing down the sides of the boat. With the fog and spray, it was a cold ride and I was underdressed for the trip out (note to self for next two trips). One of our party was the worst for wear on the ride out and even while fishing, poor guy [But rather than curl in a ball or whine, he kept fishing and, of course, was the rod that got bit most often. Impressive, stubborn performance].
The ride out wasn’t total misery though. We passed through the flocks of rhinoceros auklets, common murres, and sooty shearwaters that are thick in the nearshore waters (the “dirty green” water according to Nick).
After an hour or so, there was some chatter on the radio about whales and we passed through a pod of humpback whales on their fall migration from Alaska. We were even treated to several full-body breaches. A short time later, we spotted the spouts of two porpoises off the starboard side of the boat; they headed off quickly on a mission.
Ugghh. After another hour of pounding and cold, we finally reached 59.5oF water, potential tuna water. Out here, the fog had lifted a bit but it wasn’t until noon until the sun burnt through the overcast skies. The swells were 3-4’ with a 10ish mph wind chop. It made for lumpy seas in the morning.
LumpySeas5049Trim.jpg
You could feel the swell through your fly line when we were running into or against the waves. Both the wind and swell dropped in the early afternoon before freshening slightly in the late afternoon.
Nick dropped to trolling speed (4-5knots). We prepared and deployed our rods. Steve and Mike borrowed 12-wt. fly rods from Nick. Paul had borrowed a 12wt. from his friend, @Steve_S.
PaulAtTheReadyP9020001Trim.jpg
I had my 12 wt. Sage salt. At least two reels were loaded with depth-charger lines and we were all using some version of a green or blue baitfish fly in the 4-5” range. Steve and Paul took the padded seats aft of the cabin and deployed their rods laterally. Mike and I took the two corner spots at the stern and ran our lines off the corners. The outside lines were sent out almost to the backing and the inside lines were shorter to minimize tangles.
And so it began. We had been trolling for 15-20 minutes when Steve’s rod bent over. Fish on! Nick threw the boat into neutral and Paul’s fly got bit just as we started the slide. Paul’s fish got off after a short battle. Steve’s fish had decided to run back to the mainland. But eventually, he got it to stop and battled it back to the boat. Of course, just when you think that an albacore is beat, it bursts off again and you are deep into your fly line again. But eventually, Evan swung the gaff, and the fish was flopping around in the stern and splashing blood everywhere.
BloodyTUna5420.Trimjpg.jpg
Evan had scattered some live anchovies at the start of the stop and we did some casting and retrieving while Steve was fighting his fish. The goal is to throw out your fly with a short overhead-cast or roll-cast and stack-mend additional line to provide more depth. Then strip the fly back to provide some action. At times, it was a bit tricky in the breeze because the fish battles seemed to be most often occurring on the upwind side. To keep out of the way of the angler fighting a fish, we could cast on the downwind side. The wind moved the boat pretty rapidly over the fly line; it was test to see if the line would sink fast enough before the boat ran it over. [It would have been easier to cast from the bow, but I wasn't sure that the whole crew could lift my ass back into the boat if I fell overboard...]. But we did not have any bites on this stop. As proved the pattern for the day, the sonar indicated that the school had moved on and soon so did we.
That set the pattern for the morning. While on the troll, a single, two, or even three rods would get bit. Aided by the momentum of the troll, those fish would whip line off the reel at a dizzying rate [keep those knuckles clear…]. and those reels would soon be deep into the backing.
SteveNickFightTunaP9020024Trim.jpg
MikeWAlbacoreP9020004Trim.jpg
MeWithTuna1728Trim.jpg
GroupShot5448Trim.jpg
Fishers with unbit rods would start to strip flies back on the “slide”. We might pick up an additional fish early in the slide but not later. We could never get a hot bait-stop going. If I remember correctly, we caught only two single fish all day while casting and retrieving. Our lack of success on a stop was mirrored by the gear/bait boats too; they would report picking up a fish or two on the troll and maybe a single fish on a stop.
The fishing slowed significantly after noon (with the overcast burning off?). We would troll a half hour or more without a hit. When we did have a hit, it was just a single fish. Nick varied the speed of the troll and added more S-turns. We chased after groups of birds. We saw one or two cases where it appeared tuna were briefly hitting the surface but no one wanted to play when we trolled by. I used the strip-retrieval-in-the-prop-wash trick. But nothing elicited a strike.
Finally, the clock struck 3PM and we had to head back to the barn. The return ride, with the swell, is always more comfortable and we cruised in at 22+knots. On the ride back, the other three guys watched / helped Evan as he expertly carked the 14 fish that we had landed (we lost maybe another four or five fish). Nick and I had a great conversation. We compared notes on our day, how his season had gone, and contrasted this year to others.

An overview and some thoughts and comparisons. We ended up fishing about 35 miles west of Westport. We were fishing (red spot on Google map) above the continental slope in about 600 feet of water and south of Gray’s Canyon.
GoogleMapViewOfLocationTrim.png
1) We were not fishing in the solid warm water of last year. The temperature of the upwelled coastal water (“dirty green) was 55oF. We started fishing at 59.5oF and peaked out at 62.4oF. Unlike last summer when we were fishing in very “clear blue” ocean water, we were fishing in water that had a bit of greenish tinge, albeit clear (“clear green”).
2) Another difference was that we encountered drifting Nereocystis plants, Fucus fingers, and eel-grass strands on the water. There were also a few floating logs and other woody debris – coastal signatures. In 2020, we saw none of this.
3. Nick said that he had been marking dense schools of bait fish at 100-150’ on the sonar this season. He had also seen small schools of sauries at the surface. The birds that I saw were consistent with this. We did not see any diving seabirds last summer offshore, but we encountered multiple rhinoceros auklets (singlets and small groups) while we were trolling (dark bird on the water).
SabinesGullAndRhinocerousAuklet5051Trim.jpg
They would not be out there unless there were subsurface bait fish. Rhinoceros auklets can dive to 187’ while feeding.
These observations would seem to indicate that we were in a mixed zone, albeit warm. Back home, I pulled up the NOAA NVS Tuna Fishers tool (see http://nvs.nanoos.org/TunaFish) and you can see that we were fishing (red circle) in a finger of warmish water that is surrounded by cooler water.
TempDepthLocationTunaFishersTrim.jpg
The solid wall of classic open-ocean warm / low nutrients (oligotrophic) waters appear to be 30+ more miles farther offshore. So, in this first trip of 2021, we were fishing in a zone that has substantial bait fish populations, albeit at depth, supported by higher nutrient levels / primary production than we were fishing in for 2020. These would be the main forage base for the albacore. But they would be willing to come to the surface on occasion to grab baitfish (or a fly). It will be interesting to see what the next two trips deliver. The chances of encountering “exotics” (aka, bluefin tuna) would appear to be enhanced here…
Some bird observations. There were more birds and more bird species offshore this trip than last year. The dominant seabirds were sooty shearwaters but one of my pictures indicated a white-bodied shearwater species as well (possibly a pink-footed or a Buller’s shearwater (either of would be “lifer” for me).(with Sabine's gulls in the first picture),
SabinesGullSootyShearwater5021Trim.jpg

UnidentifiedShearwater5013RTrim.jpg
Other procellariformes (tube snouts) included fork-tailed storm petrels (and maybe Leach’s storm petrels). And solitary black-footed albatrosses glided by in their majestic, effortless flights.
Tracking the rhinoceros auklets were small groups of Sabine’s gulls (a certain lifer for me). I also saw several juvenile gulls (either Westerns or California gulls) tracking the auklets. In the afternoon, I saw a flock of 5-8 phalaropes (probably red phalaropes) in flight that then settled on the ocean surface.
Last night my wife made delicious tuna / avocado and tuna / pickled cucumber sushi rolls. There were no left overs...
Two more days to go!!!
Steve
 
Last edited:

Bagman

Active Member
Sorry, I guess that I should provide a warning that readers may want to use a scopolamine patch before reading this thread.;)
Steve
Not me. I want to fish both days not just one. Not sure I will not get sick, but I will not be seeing my white haired old lady in my room again. I would like to add you guys did great in my book, you can’t bitch about 14 long fins in the boat, and it sounds like no broken rods, or lost fly lines. So this was a very good day on mother ocean. Well done have a beer.
 
Last edited:

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
WFF Premium
Excellent! Some friends and I will be heading out on Monday.

Btw that looks like a pink foot to me.
Thank you. Shearwaters can be tricky and I was more focused on fishing at the time. It is a good day when I add two species to my life list.

Steve
 

Bruce Baker

Active Member
In the cold, dark depths of January, I had arranged four tuna charters with All-Rivers and would be out on three trips in 8 days. All four trips would be with @Nick Clayton. Thursday was the first in the series, my “Friends and Family” trip. The other three angers were long-term fishing buddies of mine (including my brother-in-law). None of them had fished for albacore before.
Mike and my BIL Paul dropped by my house Wednesday afternoon for a delicious home-made lasagna. Paul headed to Westport to camp and Mike crashed in our guest room. He and I were up at 3:30AM the next morning and out the door at 4AM for a 5:30AM departure. I had put on a scopolamine patch. We were in the parking lots just at 5:30AM and Paul was just leaving his van. We geared up in our foul weather gear and carried our packs etc. to the dock. On the way down, we met our fourth angler, another Steve, who was returning to his car for something that he needed.
We met up with Captain Nick and his deck-hand Evan at the boat and they stowed our packs and other gear on the boat. We signed the releases and Nick went through a safety briefing. Evan deployed the awning that protects the outside seats from most of the spray and overwash. Paul and I took the outside seats under the awning, while Mike and Steve joined Evan and Nick in the cabin.
Then, we were off. We stopped briefly at the bait dock to load a single scoop of anchovies into the live well. Last year, we would have loaded two or three scoops of anchovies (until very late in the season when none were available); but there is a live-bait shortage in Westport. They are rationed and only available to the commercial/charter fleet. Nick guided the boat through the foggy harbor
View attachment 294206
around the protective outer wall and out into the mouth of the Chehalis River. Slaloming his way around crab pots, Nick passed the western end of the Westport Jetty.
The bar wasn’t bad but soon we were into the heart of the Pacific swell. Uggh, I hate this part. We would be pounding our way out for 2-2.5 hours. Nick was cruising at 16+knots and was actively throttling back and forth to avoid the steepest of the waves. But there was still water dripping down the awning and rushing down the sides of the boat. With the fog and spray, it was a cold ride and I was underdressed for the trip out (note to self for next two trips). One of our party was the worst for wear on the ride out and even while fishing, poor guy [But rather than curl in a ball or whine, he kept fishing and, of course, was the rod that got bit most often. Impressive, stubborn performance].
The ride out wasn’t total misery though. We passed through the flocks of rhinoceros auklets, common murres, and sooty shearwaters that are thick in the nearshore waters (the “dirty green” water according to Nick).
After an hour or so, there was some chatter on the radio about whales and we passed through a pod of humpback whales on their fall migration from Alaska. We were even treated to several full-body breaches. A short time later, we spotted the spouts of two porpoises off the starboard side of the boat; they headed off quickly on a mission.
Ugghh. After another hour of pounding and cold, we finally reached 59.5oF water, potential tuna water. Out here, the fog had lifted a bit but it wasn’t until noon until the sun burnt through the overcast skies. The swells were 3-4’ with a 10ish mph wind chop. It made for lumpy seas in the morning.
View attachment 294207
You could feel the swell through your fly line when we were running into or against the waves. Both the wind and swell dropped in the early afternoon before freshening slightly in the late afternoon.
Nick dropped to trolling speed (4-5knots). We prepared and deployed our rods. Steve and Mike borrowed 12-wt. fly rods from Nick. Paul had borrowed a 12wt. from his friend, @Steve_S.
View attachment 294210
I had my 12 wt. Sage salt. At least two reels were loaded with depth-charger lines and we were all using some version of a green or blue baitfish fly in the 4-5” range. Steve and Paul took the padded seats aft of the cabin and deployed their rods laterally. Mike and I took the two corner spots at the stern and ran our lines off the corners. The outside lines were sent out almost to the backing and the inside lines were shorter to minimize tangles.
And so it began. We had been trolling for 15-20 minutes when Steve’s rod bent over. Fish on! Nick threw the boat into neutral and Paul’s fly got bit just as we started the slide. Paul’s fish got off after a short battle. Steve’s fish had decided to run back to the mainland. But eventually, he got it to stop and battled it back to the boat. Of course, just when you think that an albacore is beat, it bursts off again and you are deep into your fly line again. But eventually, Evan swung the gaff, and the fish was flopping around in the stern and splashing blood everywhere.
View attachment 294208
Evan had scattered some live anchovies at the start of the stop and we did some casting and retrieving while Steve was fighting his fish. The goal is to throw out your fly with a short overhead-cast or roll-cast and stack-mend additional line to provide more depth. Then strip the fly back to provide some action. At times, it was a bit tricky in the breeze because the fish battles seemed to be most often occurring on the upwind side. To keep out of the way of the angler fighting a fish, we could cast on the downwind side. The wind moved the boat pretty rapidly over the fly line; it was test to see if the line would sink fast enough before the boat ran it over. [It would have been easier to cast from the bow, but I wasn't sure that the whole crew could lift my ass back into the boat if I fell overboard...]. But we did not have any bites on this stop. As proved the pattern for the day, the sonar indicated that the school had moved on and soon so did we.
That set the pattern for the morning. While on the troll, a single, two, or even three rods would get bit. Aided by the momentum of the troll, those fish would whip line off the reel at a dizzying rate [keep those knuckles clear…]. and those reels would soon be deep into the backing.
View attachment 294209
View attachment 294211
View attachment 294212
View attachment 294213
Fishers with unbit rods would start to strip flies back on the “slide”. We might pick up an additional fish early in the slide but not later. We could never get a hot bait-stop going. If I remember correctly, we caught only two single fish all day while casting and retrieving. Our lack of success on a stop was mirrored by the gear/bait boats too; they would report picking up a fish or two on the troll and maybe a single fish on a stop.
The fishing slowed significantly after noon (with the overcast burning off?). We would troll a half hour or more without a hit. When we did have a hit, it was just a single fish. Nick varied the speed of the troll and added more S-turns. We chased after groups of birds. We saw one or two cases where it appeared tuna were briefly hitting the surface but no one wanted to play when we trolled by. I used the strip-retrieval-in-the-prop-wash trick. But nothing elicited a strike.
Finally, the clock struck 3PM and we had to head back to the barn. The return ride, with the swell, is always more comfortable and we cruised in at 22+knots. On the ride back, the other three guys watched / helped Evan as he expertly carked the 14 fish that we had landed (we lost maybe another four or five fish). Nick and I had a great conversation. We compared notes on our day, how his season had gone, and contrasted this year to others.

An overview and some thoughts and comparisons. We ended up fishing about 35 miles west of Westport. We were fishing (red spot on Google map) above the continental slope in about 600 feet of water and south of Gray’s Canyon.
View attachment 294214
1) We were not fishing in the solid warm water of last year. The temperature of the upwelled coastal water (“dirty green) was 55oF. We started fishing at 59.5oF and peaked out at 62.4oF. Unlike last summer when we were fishing in very “clear blue” ocean water, we were fishing in water that had a bit of greenish tinge, albeit clear (“clear green”).
2) Another difference was that we encountered drifting Nereocystis plants, Fucus fingers, and eel-grass strands on the water. There were also a few floating logs and other woody debris – coastal signatures. In 2020, we saw none of this.
3. Nick said that he had been marking dense schools of bait fish at 100-150’ on the sonar this season. He had also seen small schools of sauries at the surface. The birds that I saw were consistent with this. We did not see any diving seabirds last summer offshore, but we encountered multiple rhinoceros auklets (singlets and small groups) while we were trolling (dark bird on the water).
View attachment 294215
They would not be out there unless there were subsurface bait fish. Rhinoceros auklets can dive to 187’ while feeding.
These observations would seem to indicate that we were in a mixed zone, albeit warm. Back home, I pulled up the NOAA NVS Tuna Fishers tool (see http://nvs.nanoos.org/TunaFish) and you can see that we were fishing (red circle) in a finger of warmish water that is surrounded by cooler water.
View attachment 294216
The solid wall of classic open-ocean warm / low nutrients (oligotrophic) waters appear to be 30+ more miles farther offshore. So, in this first trip of 2021, we were fishing in a zone that has substantial bait fish populations, albeit at depth, supported by higher nutrient levels / primary production than we were fishing in for 2020. These would be the main forage base for the albacore. But they would be willing to come to the surface on occasion to grab baitfish (or a fly). It will be interesting to see what the next two trips deliver. The chances of encountering “exotics” (aka, bluefin tuna) would appear to be enhanced here…
Some bird observations. There were more birds and more bird species offshore this trip than last year. The dominant seabirds were sooty shearwaters but one of my pictures indicated a white-bodied shearwater species as well (possibly a pink-footed or a Buller’s shearwater (either of would be “lifer” for me).(with Sabine's gulls in the first picture),
View attachment 294217

View attachment 294218
Other procellariformes (tube snouts) included fork-tailed storm petrels (and maybe Leach’s storm petrels). And solitary black-footed albatrosses glided by in their majestic, effortless flights.
Tracking the rhinoceros auklets were small groups of Sabine’s gulls (a certain lifer for me). I also saw several juvenile gulls (either Westerns or California gulls) tracking the auklets. In the afternoon, I saw a flock of 5-8 phalaropes (probably red phalaropes) in flight that then settled on the ocean surface.
Last night my wife made delicious tuna / avocado and tuna / pickled cucumber sushi rolls. There were no left overs...
Two more days to go!!!
Steve
Another excellent writeup Steve. Great photos as well. I especially liked the departure photo. Look forward to your future trip reports!

Out of curiosity, what reel are you using?
 

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
WFF Premium
Another excellent writeup Steve. Great photos as well. I especially liked the departure photo. Look forward to your future trip reports!

Out of curiosity, what reel are you using?
Thank you, Bruce. It is a Sage Spectrum Max reel. I am pretty pleased with it so far.

Steve
 

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