By Jeff Holmes
Plenty of fish are being caught, but Westport’s salmon season has been a little tougher than expected, with water slightly warmer than normal and Chinook cruising the beach and silvers yet to show in the numbers that fisheries managers have forecasted. The 300,000 or so coho expected to flood into Grays Harbor will undoubtedly set Westport and all of the harbor and its river systems on fire in the weeks to come, but the bite is on, NOW, for Westport tuna. Only 40- to 45-mile runs put anglers into huge schools of outsized albacore eating bait on the surface.
We’ll feature fall albacore fishing with Mark Coleman’s All Rivers and Saltwater Charters in the October issue, but here’s a word to the wise from a guy who just fished with Mark and his badass deckhand, Luis San Diego, in early September: the fishing is awesome, and so is the experience aboard Mark’s 29-foot Defiance boat with twin Honda 225s. Even bucking out to the grounds, we got there fast (no diesel fumes!), and coming in, we easily cruised at 28 knots, maybe faster. The 40-mile run in took an hour and twenty minutes.
With tuna close to shore and Mark’s fast and eminently fishable boat, six of us whacked 53 tuna averaging over 20 pounds. Get this, the whole trip only took 11 hours! Although Mark offers to fish for salmon for a couple hours on the way in, our group voted to stay on the tuna grounds, where 50 mph runs from 15- to 30-pounders are a sure thing. My last fish of the day was close to 30, and it took 15 minutes to corral it.
Twice it took me into the reel’s backing.
On our last few bait stops, it seemed as if every fish that hit the deck was over 20 pounds, and the day ended by plugging the boat on the last stop with seven tuna hammering the deck: one from the troll rod, and the other six the product of a sextuple! Two of those fish were pushing 30 pounds.
It’s not often I’d take the time to plug a guide for services rendered beyond an article I’m writing, and Mark isn’t the only good captain out of Westport, but I’d book with him again in a heartbeat and recommend him heartily for anyone seeking a sporty, safe, hands-on fishing experience. His boat is definitely geared toward hardcore fishermen and is not a place for whiners, total newbies, or people who get seasick. San Diego’s battle cry of “Garrrr, bitches!” can be heard throughout the day as he sinks gaffs into tuna brains. I found myself garrrr-ing along.
I even ate a raw tuna heart.
Albacore are thick off of Washington, Oregon and even Vancouver island coasts right now, and late summer and early fall is the time to fill up freezers. With easily 130 pounds of loins put away in my freezer right now from this trip and from one I took with Ilwaco’s Pacific Salmon Charters, along with rockfish, lingcod, halibut, and salmon, I’ll need another freezer if I score on an elk this early October.
There is no surer bounty of high-quality wild protein these days than the one you can score albacore fishing, and there is no faster way that I know of to reach the tuna grounds out of Westport than aboard Mark’s boat.