by Mike Williams
Years back everyone fished Oregon coastal ports like Walport or Newport for salmon. Then a combination of El Nino, fishing pressure and low rainfalls cut the salmon runs to the point that radical shutdowns on the salmon resulted. Fortunately, coastal charter boats and private boaters can still reach inshore bottomfish. However, albacore wait offshore in water from 58 to 61 degrees. Early in the summer on typical years this means runs of 100 miles off the coast. But when El Nino ruled, or late in the summer when waters warm, you can find albacore just five or six miles from shore. So, if you book a trip, don't ask about the catch, ask the distance to the action.
Albacore are extremely tough fish, so you can use the substantial tackle supplied or rented by most skippers. However, ideal tackle's different. Most anything works for trolling feathered lures -- the usual method for locating fish --but you need special long and limber rods to flip the lightly weighted, lip hooked live anchovy that maximizes results. Conventional reels seem to work best, but large spinning reels can do the job with lighter rigs.
Surf sticks are too stiff. Steelhead gear can produce well if you go to lots of 15 or 18 pound line. On crowded boats you may need that surf stick and 25 or 30 pound line to maximize your catch. Lighter gear merely maximizes your fish playing pleasure and may, as lines cross in the confusion of hookups, maximize your chances of "long line" releases. So bring extra spools of line and, "just in case" a heavy surf outfit.
Some schools do run larger in size than others. The average fish may run five to fifteen pounds, but albacore can run over 90 pounds and the world record set in 1977 was 88 pounds 2 ounces. A few of the line class records are in range. So you might review line test and rigging requirements of the International Game Fish Association.
Albacore action's different. Most of the time the first hit's on a feather. Sometimes this is a blind hit; other times alert anglers spot schooling albacore. In either case it's absolutely vital that the first few fish come to the boat so the deckhands can chum up their buddies with live anchovy. Once you get a school of albacore working the boat, multiple hookups result. But if you're the unlucky angler who loses that first fish, your fellow anglers won't be pleased.
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