September is Tuna Time – Big Coast Captain’s Blog

September is Tuna Time – Big Coast Captain’s Blog

September is Tuna Time

Each Fall for the past decade, a ragtag gang of fishermen have plied their trade on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, chasing blue water and Albacore Tuna.

It’s not a pursuit for the faint of maritime heart, with big offshore runs, challenging water and way more variables than confirmed facts. Remote WCVI locales like Tofino, Ucluelet and Bamfield have all been early tuna players and remain Albacore destinations today. Nootka Sound, Kyuquot, Winter Harbour and West Coast of Haida Gwaii are also prime fall tuna hotspots when conditions align.

Schools of Pacific Albacore Tuna make land in Northern California each summer, navigating their way up the West Coast. The highly-prized fish are targeted in Oregon and Washington in July and August before cruising up Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii…and back to wide open Pacific in late September.

The challenge in angling Albacore is really locating fish. Water conditions dictate where the tuna roam and the blue water is nirvana. Sea surface temperatures somewhere between 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit, along with the right Chlorophyll/plankton levels, dictate where the tuna will be. A good SST program like Terrafin (about $100 bucks a year) will help guide the way.

Weather is the other major consideration before heading out as tuna water can be found anywhere from 25 to 125 miles offshore. Check marine forecasts and utilize an additional app like Windy to help ID your weather window. Fuel is also paramount and many boats carry extra bladders or jerry cans if required. A safety raft, survival suits, EPIRBS and a great suite of boat electronics are all key equipment.

Now that’s a bunch of the spooky stuff. One of the coolest things about Albacore is the community and there’s a number of opportunities to get acquainted with the sport. In addition to a number of coastal Albacore guides, the derby scene is alive and well. The Bamfield Tuna Shootout is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this Fall and Tofino Resort and Marina’s Race for The Blue is entering Year 3. A new derby is also planned for Winter Harbour in early September.

All derbies help educate, provide safety in numbers and radio communication. Organizers and participants literally assist crews getting the sport dialled in!

Jes McFarlen of Parksville Boathouse and I have derbied for the past nine years as Team Kingfisher and look forward to celebrating Bamfield’s anniversary. There’s always a number of Kingfishers in the mix, from a new 3425 and 3125 to a number of 3025s like us this year. It’s a cool fleet! As far as fishing goes, outriggers are awesome and we run a 6-8 rod spread, utilizing heavy Penn gear and 80lb braid. Tackle is mostly trolled on surface at 7 knots and available at Pacific Net and Twine in Parksville or Steveston. Hunt down Jes or I if you have any questions or the PNT guys know everything going on…they help outfit the commercial fleet.

There is no better way to cap off summer season than a September Albacore trolling bonanza!

Tim Milne

Big Coast