“Salmon, salmon and more salmon! That’s all you think about Nelly…”
If I had a dime for every time my friend, former co-host, Seattle Seahawk and WSU Cougar Robbie Tobeck hit me with that blast….
“Seriously Nelly, have you ever taken that boat of yours out for anything but salmon???”
Uh oh, new Tobeck material… and, it made me think…
“You mean like halibut or lingcod?”
“No Nelly… T, U, N, A tuna!”
Oh, that…Well, he had me there and really, I have no excuse since my Stabicraft “Big Red” has serious blue-water bloodlines including a live well, 150 gallon fuel capacity, oversize fishbox and a kick ass chop-busting reverse chine hull. While these features were initially intended for off-shore action, the way they enable my salmon fishing addiction is remarkable and to be quite frank, a boat like this never, ever should have fallen into the hands of a guy like me.
So, as I saw it the only self-respecting response to Tobeck’s blunt chidings was to hit salmon in my stomping grounds with my gear and take Big Red to Westport with Tobeck’s tuna gear.
The plan was hatched and right before the Marine Area 9 & 10 closure, we hit Midchannel Bank…and were not dissapointed!
Tobeck's common complaint about salmon fishing often has to do with the time between strikes. On this day, he wouldn't have long to wait!
This has been an excellent chinook season in Puget Sound and the fish are not only numerous but there have been some large specimens as well!
Rob's first fish was a dandy that blew out of the release clip and spit the spoon at the boat, Tobeck was not amused...
Early that Midchannel morning we experienced a solid bite but landing them was entirely another story! We started the day a dismal 0 for 4!!! Thankfully, that was about to change!
Walt Hylback broke the ice in a big way with this fat 22 pounder and the fishbox started to look better in a hurry!
Tobeck would soon forget about the big one that got away as the action really made a sunny Sunday morning fly by!
The next occupant of the fishbox was a few pounds lighter than the first, but the fact that it "lightened" Tobeck's mood really made my day!
Most of the fish came on hardware but the one that I'm holding (far left) took a half-hitched whole herring fished in the middle of the water column on the middle downrigger!
With our “salmon day” in the books, it was time to put the boat on the trailer, strip the salmon gear off the boat including Cannon Downriggers and cannon balls, fuel up and head to Westport!
One of the key differences between salmon and tuna is the temperature of the water they live in and the speeds at which you fish for them. Sixty degrees (60 F.) seems to be the break point and tuna will be slightly warmer than the water in which they live. After a hook and line fight, albacore will be several degrees warmer than their environment. So, if you want tuna fillets and not “fish soup”, you must ice your catch immediately after bleeding them. You’ve got to have ice and a whole bunch of it!!!
Unfortunately, by the time we got through traffic the ice house in Westport was closed… Do you know what fifty-five bags of party ice looks like? Well, we found out…
Along with the aforementioned ice, live anchovies are essential to a successful tuna outing. Fortunately, my Stabicraft is equipped with a live bait tank that will hold two full scoops of live anchovies and keep them frisky all the way out to the tuna grounds which are 30 to 50 miles or more offshore.
To find tuna in the vast, open ocean, you need to watch surface temperature, water color (you’re looking for a cobalt blue), find feeding birds and “FAD’s” or “Fish Attracting Devices” which is basically anything that floats! In this year of tsunami debris, it’s not hard to find! The basic tuna technique is to troll until you get a strike, then stop the boat and throw stunned live anchovies behind the boat to bring the school of tuna in close.
Fortunately on this day, we wouldn't have long to troll! Here's my son Matt Nelson with the first tuna ever landed on the big, red Stabicraft! Robbie Tobeck in the background begrudgingly allowed the photo despite the fact that we "should have had gear in the water catching tuna!..."
After a couple trolling hookups followed by a few productive bait stops the fishbox started to get full! Here's Mason Tobeck and Matt Nelson dumping the final bags of "party ice" on our catch!
After all was said & done it was a very memorable two days of angling in two different locations, in pursuit of two different species with two different sets of rods and terminal gear.
Gotta love a successful father and son outing! Rob Tobeck, Matt Nelson and Mason Tobeck share a smile over the results of Big Red's first tuna run!
Are there easier ways to fish salmon and tuna? Heck yes! One can get the job done in the same day by launching in La Push, Westport or Ilwaco to name but a few. Our two days on the water were simply taking advantage of an opportunity. Not to mention the fact that Tobeck can never call me “Salmon-only Nelly” ever again!!!
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