Fishing Destination Spotlight – Pacific Northwest (Ilwaco, Wa.)
This summer was a hot one. At my house we had 30 days straight this summer over 100. My garden looked a little bleak in late July, early August. Our local fishing has been great, and it is another fantastic year of Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, and Yellowtail. That said they have been pretty line shy unless you are fishing on that magical day. Scaled down tackle and busy rails of local sport boats are the norm when the fishing is good. No complaints from me but sometimes a change of pace is welcome!
In August I flew up to Portland and drove up into Washington to see some dealers and fish with the guys from Outdoor GPS. Arriving at the Airport wasn’t so different than the weather we had been having at home. Daytime highs in Portland/Vancouver area were in the mid to high 80’s but the mornings were a bit crisper which was a welcome change from waking up hot!! We had mixed reports of good Albacore fishing, Marlin being around, several Bluefin landed, and a bunch of Yellowtail also. This is not normal for this far North, but it has happened the last couple of warm water years.
Our goal for the trip was to spend some time with the local dealers, fish with the staff at Outdoor GPS and film the whole thing. We were going to fish with an Accurate Pro-Staff Bret Dickerson (Columbia River Sportfishing/Oregon Tuna Charters) and also on the Opportunaty with Captain Barret Ames. (Tre-Fin Group) 2 Days of chasing Albacore and whatever else we could find offshore was the plan.
Both Captain Bret and Captain Barret are based in Ilwaco Washington so that made the logistics easy. There are several places to stay nearby and we opted for Astoria Oregon just across the Columbia River. Its only 20 minutes to Ilwaco and some of our favorite restaurants are over there in Astoria.
The expected temperature for our time there was daytime highs in the mid to high 60’s and the lows in the low 50’s which was a drastic departure from what it’s been like at home. It was a very welcome change along with the last reports showing good signs of biting fish.
Day 1 Captain Bret picked us up in his Aluminum Battle wagon of a boat that is so comfortable its amazing!
He usually runs 6 pack charters but we were able to go on his off day so there was only 3 of us. We were 30 miles offshore in flat calm weather in about an hour and a half. We put the jigs in the water for literally 5 minutes before our first bite which came on a Zukers Zucchini tuna feather. We threw a few Anchovies for Chum and they got eaten immediately. We would never start the engines until we were ready to go home. We had our fill in about an hour. I think we put 30 fish down on ice at the 1 hr mark. At that point we just played with the Albacore for a bit and fed them. Keep in mind this was day 1 of 2. I had forgotten how fun these fish are on light tackle. We stayed with the school for a few hours just watching them eat our chum and blow up all around the boat. We called in another boat to share in our fortune and passed the school off for them to take advantage.
Normally right about now I would tell you how important it is to fish the right tackle for the application, and I would cover rigging, jig type, line size, fluorocarbon, Circle hooks and the gamut of what to expect. But honestly none of that really mattered! We had an absolute blast. We caught them on 20#-60# on bait and jigs. We caught them on the slow pitch, live bait, Knife Jigs. Jack pole, and even the Popper. Yes, not a typo Albacore on the popper. I have seen great Albacore fishing before and that is exactly what this was. Every bait or jig presented descent was a bite.
Day 2 Captain Barrett Ames got us to the grounds safe and sound on the normally commercial Opportunaty. The day was a bit different in terms of the weather, so it made getting out there a little more interesting and staying with the school tougher because the speed of the drift. That said they ate the same baits and jigs with reckless abandon when we were on them. We had 4 jig stops all followed by bites on Jigs and bait for about 32 fish on the day. The fish would hit the jig/bait but then they would only stay with us for about 10 minutes due to drifting at 3 kts instead of .3 the day before. We had plenty of fish and plenty of fun and had to cross the Columbia bar at the right time to make it more comfortable and as safe as possible on the way back in. So it was a fairly short day.
I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that the best all around reel for this Albacore fishing is a Valiant 400. It’s the perfect outfit for both the live anchovy fishing and the small jigs that Albacore love to attack. I rig mine with 350 yards of 50# Braid and 25 yds of 30# monofilament. Good for stretch and it gets bit just fine! Paired up with a 70M Valiant rod (BV-70M) and you have a Tuna killing machine that weighs in less that 1.5 pounds. On the commercial side the Opportunaty is using BV2-500’s for most of their fishing and when its really biting they have nicknamed the BV2-800N “Winch”. Watching what they do with these reels when rigged with 80# monofilament is really something. A Jack pole with a handle is what they think of it!
Shockingly enough we only saw 1 other charter boat fishing each day out on the water. I am not sure why that is! Weather was grease calm day 1 and plenty workable day 2. We could have loaded the boat both days but left them biting both days. Why aren’t other anglers taking advantage of this? It’s a fantastic fishery. Ilwaco is an easy trip by rental car from Portland and the charter fleet up here has great tackle for the purpose. I think anglers everywhere can appreciate what they do up here. There is even a local source for packing and shipping your catch back home. So, if you are looking for something different to try and also for a change of scenery, I recommend getting up to Ilwaco Washington and chasing the Albacore with these guys. If you are on a short window for weather and book ahead and run into weather problems the fall back is salmon fishing in the Columbia river which is also some of the best in the world.
We hope you get a chance to get up there and experience what they have to offer.
These guys will get you all set up for your trip (Ilwaco based):
Captain Bret Dickerson – Oregon Tuna Charters: www.oregontunacharters.com
Captain Mike Colbach – Shake N Bake Sportfishing: www.shakenbakesportfishing.com
Captain Mark Youngblood – Pacific Addiction: www.markyoungbloodsportfishing.com
Captain Barrett Ames – F/V Opportunaty: www.tre-fin.com