Albacore Tuna Bounty off the Oregon Coast
Outdoor Chef Kurt is still amazed at the fighting power of these tuna in the blue water off of the Oregon coast. The albacore tuna fishery in Oregon has grown dramatically over the last 5 years, into a great new sporting adventure. There are a series of derbies from south to north in the summers, which attract boats from as far as southern California and all over the west coast. Charters out of most of the major ports are available for this fine eating fish. With a limit of 25, if you get into them, you can fill the freezer in a short period of time.
I have a friend that had a new boat built that is perfect for the long trips out 40 to 50 miles to find the blue water these game fish inhabit. We started out as tuna virgins last summer, but got the hang of it after adjusting trolling speed and length of lines .We usually run 4 lines at different lengths, longer out the sides, and closer from the stern of the boat. We use floating jigs that dance across the water as we troll at a speed of about 6.2 mph. These fish hit very hard when they bite and you need some real hardware to land the big ones.
We run Ugly Stick 7 foot rods with medium sized Penn Gold 2 speed reels, also a couple of Avet reels that work real good to handle these 12 to 45 pound fighters. For the line we use 100# braided line, with a top shot of 90# monofilament. When we hook a fish we usually drag it for a couple hundred yards .These are schooling fish so as we drag one, usually we will have another 1 or sometimes 2 more fish on by the time we stop. With 3 of these awesome game fish on at the same time, it can turn into a real mess in a real hurry, so you have to be on your A game or you will have some tangled lines before you can say Fish On. We usually try to bring the closest ones in first, and then work on the ones on the longer lines. If they cross lines you have to move around or untangle lines on the fly, and it can be very exciting to land the big ones after an avoided mess.
The jigs we use, are supposed to imitate squid on the surface .We us a 7 OO hook that looks like a treble but only has 2 hooks. When these fish hit they bury the hooks in their jaw, and we have yet to lose a fish after it is hooked. Once hooked these fish pull like they are headed straight for the bottom, harder than you can imagine. I was amazed at their tenacity and strength on the first one I hooked last year, and it was one of the most satisfying fishing experiences I have had in my whole life.
The way we get the fish on board is to gaff them, which is a whole new adventure in itself. Once on board we cut the gills to make them bleed out and put them in the fish box on ice. The faster you cool these fish down the better it is, and the better they will taste. We usually keep the fish on ice overnight, as it seems to make it easier to pull off the skin when it is time to get to cutting. Each tuna has 4 loins, and filleting them is not too hard once you get the hang of it.
The flesh of these great fish is tender and flaky and full of omega oils which are very good for your health. It can be cooked in a number of ways. You can grill it, you can bake it, or you can batter it, and deep fry it for the best fish and chips you have had your whole life. As a lifelong fisherman I waited many years to have a go at these great game fish, and can tell you firsthand that when you get one on the line it will be one of the best fishing experiences of your life.
HAPPY TUNA FISHING FROM OUTDOOR CHEF KURT Two simple recipes.
#1 grilled or baked albacore tuna fillets. Marinate loin for 3 hours in Bernstein’s Italian dressing in Ziploc bag. Season with Tony Chacheres Creole seasoning and wrap in tin foil after pouring on a little melted butter. Then grill or bake till sections of tuna fillet flake apart with fork.
#2 deep fried albacore fillets. Place loin on cutting board and slice into 1/2 inch patties. Mix Pride of the West batter mix. with 1/2 can or so of desired beer till nice and creamy. Add Johnny’s seasoning to batter and stir in. Dip loin patties in batter covering completely and fry till golden brown in 375f oil of your choice. I prefer canola oil but vegetable and corn oil work well also.