Time for tuna | TheUnion.com

Time for tuna

September is the prime month for albacore tuna off the Northern California coast.

These fish are off the coast from July through October. The key to locating these fish is finding water temps in the mid 60s. Modern satellite technology allows us to identify the surface water temps and give us GPS coordinates to get there. Currently all of the party boat ports from Monterey to Fort Bragg are offering albacore trips on certain days each week. Check with each port for specific information.

The allure of albacore fishing is two fold.

As a fighting fish, the albacore is like hooking into a torpedo. During their runs you just hang on because you will not stop them until they are ready. There is no limit on these fish and when the action starts, dozens of fish are caught. As table fare they are the highest-quality tuna. They are solid white meat and have earned the title “chicken of the sea”.

Fresh on the grill or canned it doesn’t get much better than albacore.

Albacore schools run at depths of 50 to a couple of hundred feet. The fishing technique is to troll at high speed (15 mph) and entice an individual fish to rise up to trolled cedar plugs or feathered jigs. Once the trolling lures are hit the boat will turn 90 degrees and “slide”. The deck hands will start chumming live baitfish over the side to bring the school of fish up. The anglers hook up a lively anchovy and put it over the side. As long as the school is near the surface the action can be fast and furious. Often times a 12 hour fishing day can see all of the fish landed in one or two flurries.

When picking a port to go for albacore there are a number of considerations. Do they have access to live bait? You can have a successful albacore trip with only artificial lures but the boats coming home with big numbers of fish are usually using live bait. How far off the coast have the fish been recently?

The distance and boat speed will give you an idea of how long the day will be. A decade ago the slower boats would leave San Francisco Bay at 2 AM and return at midnight. Currently the boats based in the bay area that go for tuna are faster and the trip is all day. Up the coast at Fort Bragg there have been times in years past when the fish were only a couple of miles out of the harbor. The distance is affected by ocean currents and winds, and change appreciably from day to day.

The cost of a trip can be quite high. You can expect to pay $200 to $250 per angler. Diesel consumption for an entire day of high speed trolling can be staggering. The cost has risen due to fuel and live bait. Both of these commodities are up 35% over last year.

This past weekend was the opener for Heenan Lake cutthroat trout. Heenan is off Hwy 89 near Monitor Pass, 20 minutes south of Markleeville. This lake is the holding water for brood stock cutthroats and is open to fishing Friday, Saturday and Sundays in September and October. It is catch & release only. The hot lure was a Panther Martin ( yellow blade with red spots). The anglers fishing these did well if they were out on the water. The fly anglers did OK on prince nymphs.

This past week about 1300 salmon were counted going up the fish ladder at Red Bluff on the Sacramento River. Salmon anglers in the Chico to Red Bluff stretch had a good week but not a wide open bite. Roe was the best bait by far. Year to date we are at 4999 salmon, last year we had 13,114 counted going through the counting station.


Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union, which appears on Tuesdays, and is also host of the KNCO “Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. He may be reached via e-mail at denisp@theunion.com.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User