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View Poll Results: Has Pac NW had albacore spearo success before?
Never heard of any albacore by spear off OR or WA 9 69.23%
yes, I know of albacore by spear off OR coast before 9/15 4 30.77%
yes, I know of albacore by spear off WA coast before 9/15 0 0%
yes, I know of albacore by spear off BC coast before 9/15 0 0%
yes, I know of albacore by spear off AK coast before 9/15 0 0%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-05-2015, 04:00 PM   #1
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Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Sept 4th, 2015 was a fantastic, 'bucket-list' day for a small team of 3 Oregon spearos. Myself, plus Dan Semrad, plus our bluewater expert spearo and captain, Jean Luc. Total of NINE Albacore taken by speargun, free diving.

We nearly didn't go due to the wind forecast but it's the NW so you can't rely on forecasts always, so we went anyway and found quite good sea conditions and ~60 ft vis, as predicted by the plankton chart -- much more workable than our 1st attempt. We started out trolling lines and lures like last time, to locate tuna, but after a while we changed tactics to search-run&gun where tuna and bird sign pointed the way. The temp gradients were sooo much more localized than last time, so about as soon as we crossed into 62 degrees, 26 miles out from Astoria, over the Astoria Canyon, we started seeing tuna jumpers, some 'boils' where tuna are chasing bait fish right at surface, and/or diving-bird swarms. A combo of the two animals was when the feeding frenzy got really nuts.

One frenzy I witnessed I'll never forget it's such a vivid memory... with a rapidly shrinking bait ball just 6 ft away, with diving birds and albacore strafing the bait ball so fast it was a whirling dervish of tuna fins and wings, beaks and fish fragments, with hopeful (and harmless) blue sharks circling around below picking up scraps. What an incredible thing to witness. I could have gotten another close tuna shot there but I was reloading at that time. To give a flavor of what I witnessed, go to the 1 minute mark of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNgrnwl1rXk and visualize adding just as many diving birds as albacore into the mix.

Jean Luc was the ace shooter, picking off 6 tuna with his giant, long-range tuna cannon, Dan with 2, and me with 1 the first of the day. Total of 9 tuna and one Spanish Mackerel, of which we saw tens of thousands in dense schools, often close by dense clouds of tiny 1-inch baitfish.

Jean Luc, was nice to let me have a 2nd tuna to take home... the pic of the pkg'ed tuna is from just these two fish, the 30" one, ~19 lbs that I speared, and a 24" tuna.

Question for Pac NW spearboard forum? Has any tuna ever been taken by spear before? Off Oregon? Off Washington? Just curious if we might be the first Pac NW spearos to bag tuna locally. (I'm sure Cali spearos have been doing this for years.)

Note one of the pics Jean Luc is swimming after his high-pressure buoy, note the slight wake behind the buoy which is being dragged 3/4 underwater by a tuna. That takes a fair amount of force.

Note one of the pics is 16x9 and shows a distant diver and his float. As a helmsman, would you want to try to keep track of a reel-only diver or a floatline diver with highly visible floats? I strongly recommend floatline for safety trackability. i think you might be able to land these albacore with a reel, but i wouldn't want to be responsible for tracking a reel diver in the bluewater.

Chum was getting eaten by seagulls on surface then some little blue sharks as it sank. Enough to be annoying but chumming helped some we think. We were able to get fish after we ran out of chum.

One tactic we tried a couple times when a frenzy ran out of gas, which happens in minutes, it might re-appear 100-200 yards away, rather than boarding the divers, a couple times we trailed a tow rope and dragged them at idle speed over to the new boil/frenzy.

It's really hard to get head shots on these fast-moving fish. Several of our hits were in danger of tearing out, (without a slip-tip setup for all 3 of us we'd have lost several for sure.) When in doubt, the procedure is to call a fellow diver over for a 2nd shot where it's easy to get a head shot while you're holding your tuna via floatline, if you suspect or see a possible tear-out. Next time we decided we'd carry an extra gun in the boat, so the helmsman can motor over and hand it to the shooter, so another diver isn't taken out of the precious and short action window... it takes a while to do the 2nd shot, get the fish up, extract two spears, untangle lines, reload the guns. Better to only have one diver out of action dealing with his own fish. I was so glad I'd rigged my float line with a 10' bungee from Neptonics. or I'd have lost my tuna for sure, There was only skin and meat about 2" wide in the tail section holding on. It's also a good idea to assume a weak placement until you can pull them up enough to see, or dive down to check (from the tail side view so you don't spook them into sounding. You need to lead tuna more than you 1st think due to their speed.)

I have to say I was in shock when my spear hit my albie.. whaaaat??!!! I freak'in actually hit one???!! is this really happening??!! I quickly decided I wasn't dreaming and finned quickly over to my buoy which was already half under water and started gingerly pulling the float line to tease up the albie, after a few straight down runs, till I could see the hit was tenuous, then Dan thankfully dove to get a good head shot to back up my hit. (This albie was in a group of 3 cruising toward a frenzy but wasn't up to strafing speed yet, at about 15 ft depth.) Finally got him close enough to get my hand in his gills, wrap my legs around him to keep it from generating any thrust, and dispatch him with my knife.

In a 2nd post on this thread, I'll copy the 'lessons learned' from the first tuna trip report and add new points from actually spearing tuna. Last time the only tuna landed were on rod and reel. This time all the tuna landed were by spear.

Woohooo! what an unforgettable day and great teamwork!
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Last edited by quattroluvr; 09-10-2015 at 09:28 PM.
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Old 09-05-2015, 04:43 PM   #2
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Adding new lessons learned. For the list of lessons learned from our 1st tuna outing, see http://spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=184303
  • Slip-tip is MANDATORY. With this fast a fish you can't depend on solid head or mid-body placements. Mori was my choice.
  • Shot selection is critical. eg. if you're finning toward a frenzy, don't waste your shot on less than a sure shot, when a minute or two later you may have many tuna to pick from next to the bait-ball at less than 10-12 ft range. It takes very precious minutes to reload a blue water gun... the bands take a while, long wraps takes time, securing the slip tip takes a bit of time... every second of reloading task seems like minutes when you're reloading next to a frenzy.
  • Way worth it to get a bluewater hard or high-pressure float. Less tangles, fish can't collapse it.
  • If you see lots of frantically diving birds, dive the frenzy even if no tuna are 'boiling'
  • Even if a dense, large diving bird concentration is not frantically diving, check it out.
  • You need range and accuracy, my 120mm Riffe euro was a bare minimum. Both the other guys had longer, more bands guns. I had to pass on a _lot of visible tuna, that the other guys could go for. Number of shots taken is a factor.
  • With a breakaway rig, remember that you can't let go of your gun; after the shot, the floatline is no longer attached. Put your arm through the bands, or clip it to your buoy so your hands are free to fight the fish with the floatline. Muscle memory from years of reef-diving teaches you it's ok to let go of the gun because it's attached to a floatline.
  • Assume a potential tear-out unless you have visual confirmation from a buddy or youself diving down to confirm placement. You can do it yourself if you're floatlining. If you're reel'in it, you can't do it yourself.
  • When pulling up a tuna, you can tie off a bight of the floatline to the float, especially if you want to dive and check the spear placement. Better have a bungie in the rig though.
  • Really good practice to carry a signal sausage, whistle and signal mirror. Fog could roll in. Waves could kick up and diminish diver spotting range from helsman pt of view. I have a pocket threaded on wt belt in middle of back. Fits all of it.
  • Never use reverse even for a second if you have any fishing lines left in the water. It will wrap around the prop easily, which won't hurt the prop but it can damage the prop seal.
  • To pick up divers, place the boat upwind in neutral so the divers don't waste time or energy chasing a drifting boat downwind of them.
  • Look, and choose where to sit on the edge of the boat. Don't sit down right by a cleat or other sharp thing that can snag your suit as you do a back-roll entry.
  • When doing a back roll, hold onto your gun with one hand, the mask bands on back of your head with the other hand. Both times I didn't hold the straps, the water impact blew off the straps, but didn't lose the mask. Not a bad idea to bring an extra mask/snorkel too. Unlike say WSB's, albacore don't appear to be spooked at all by the noisy diver entries.
  • How long range a gun do you need? well, probably longer than whatever you're carrying! I did feel pretty undergunned with a 2-band euro 120. I had to pass on a lot of albies outside of my gun's range (and accuracy skill), I may get a longer/more-bands gun and need to get more practice.
  • A little kill knife that's handy for Pac NW reef fish isn't the right tool for pelagic fish. you might need a longer knife.
  • Errin in Cali section of sboard tipped me to this novel 'dead log' technique for luring in tuna or YT's, in this case it worked for bluefin, which are close cousins to albies: http://spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=177375 He also adds: I notice that a white shirt over my wetsuit makes me much more visible underwater, especially when the visibility is poor. Fellow divers always comment on how they can see me from far away with the white shirt on. And if other divers can see me, guess what else can see me.... I also now use throw flashers and have noticed that they are quite effective at attracting tuna, amongst other curious pelagics. I would recommend wearing the shirt and using flashers. The more visible you are, the better chances of a curious fish coming too close to you...I gathered these techniques from fellow divers mainly for use on Yellowtail. They just happen to work similarly on Tuna as well.

Last edited by quattroluvr; 09-17-2015 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 09-05-2015, 11:00 PM   #3
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Wow Leigh, what an experience! So glad for your success! Great writeup too! A friend of mine, John Cheesman, speared a tuna years ago (1998) off the Oregon coast, so you are not the first.

Near World Record Tuna off of the Oregon Coast.
By Cliff Etzel -March 26, 1998

The prospect of spearing a world record tuna is considered by many a spearfisher the ultimate accomplishment in this sport.

Oregon Freediver John Cheesman came within ounces of accomplishing that feat August 4 along the Oregon Coast.

Cheesman, an avid freediver and owner of Seasports Dive center in Springfield, Oregon was approximately 35 miles off the southern Oregon Coast, when a charter he was leading came upon a large school of Albacore tuna. "I have been involved with underwater hunting for 10 years" said Cheesman. "And five of those years have been spent hunting these tuna off the Oregon Coast".

His patience and determination resulted in a 20.5 pound Albacore tuna. This has been compared to catching a hummingbird barehanded while holding your breath.

"There’s been maybe 20 taken this way in the whole history of the world" says Terry Maas, himself a world record holder for spearing a 398 pound Blue Fin Tuna in 1982. He is also a member of the International Bluewater Spearfishing Records Committee and an authority on the sport of breathhold spearfishing.

"His (Cheesmans) is very nearly a world record. It was just a few ounces short of one caught by a fellow in Australia". Maas said. "It’s a remarkable acheivement. So much so that he’s in line for a meritorious award from our organization".

Cheesman has tried many different ways to approach these fish, which can travel up to 50 mph when needed. These included swimming to them, which didn’t work at all.

He found that by trailing a jigging system from fishing poles rigged on his 30 foot Boston Whaler, the Seasports 1, he was able to attract them in close enough so that he could drop in the water with his Riffe gun and pursue his quarry. "The only way to target these fish is to jump in the water when they’re present and hope that one swims past" said Cheesman.

And his hopes were met with his catch.

Now that he has accomplished one of his goals as a Bluewater hunter, what is his next quarry?

"Halibut" Cheesman said. "They can get VERY BIG."

And anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, Fresh Halibut barbequed is considered a little slice of heaven.
nec timor nec temeritas (neither fear nor foolhardiness.)
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Old 09-05-2015, 11:50 PM   #4
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Great trip Leigh. Congrats on the fish and thanks for the great write up. I havent been on the board much but whenever I am it seems like you're posting great reports/intelligence/information. Thanks for making the PNW section even better than it already is.
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Old 09-06-2015, 01:17 AM   #5
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

stoked for you guys . you are in a very small group of people that have shot albis on the west coast as a whole

frv owners discount http://spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=134606
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Old 09-06-2015, 01:37 AM   #6
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!


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Old 09-06-2015, 10:40 AM   #7
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

OP: We didn't measure/weigh all of our fish, probably should have, duh! But looking at some other pics of our 9 tuna laid out with noses pretty even... using my 30" measured tuna as a visual baseline, three of the longest appears to be easily 33"+ which the albacore length-weight tables put at 26.7 to 27.7 lbs. So likely larger than the previous Oregon record, Cheesman's 1998 20.5 lb tuna. Kudos to Cheesman for leading the way 17 years ago.


The International Underwater Spearfishing Association world record is held by an Australian at 44.1 lbs, ~39", in 2011.
Update: another record keeping organization has Russell Caires world record albacore—50.35 pounds (22.8 kilograms), Maui, Hawaii, July 4, 2000 Lots more fun to read albacore catch stories at: http://freedive.net/ibsrc/fish_frms/f_albacor.htm
Update: So I'm wondering if my 30" ~19 lb albie might be an unofficial world record by
a 'senior citizen' aged 62 or greater. :-) nope, Terry Maas is older than I am, so not a chance!

California Dept of Fish & Wildlife Albacore by free diving record:
tuna, albacore Species information Thunnus alalunga 30 lbs 11 oz, Outer Monterey Bay, Monterey 10/14/1998 Tobin, Joseph E. Ocean Diving Free

Update: Dan fortunately took a picture at home of his two albies right next to his gun which serves as a ruler device. The larger of the two turns out to be 36.34" (rounding down) or 92.3 cm. Using the albie length-weight table ... that puts his larger tuna at 35.4 lbs, so let's call it the new Oregon/Pac NW record, unofficially, at 35 lbs.
BTW - didn't mention all the non-tuna life we saw: whales, seals, schools of juvenile mola-mola aka sunfish, adult sunfish, blue sharks, spanish mackerel by the tens of thousands, diving birds, jellyfish, clouds of tiny baitfish, dolphins playing in our wake, oh and thieving seagulls.

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Old 09-06-2015, 11:38 AM   #8
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Nice, they are the best sashimi when expertly prepared. Great report, Leigh.
La Jolla to Malibu & the neighboring islands
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Old 09-07-2015, 05:40 AM   #9
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Rad trip, Leigh!
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Old 09-07-2015, 07:06 PM   #10
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Awesome work! There have been tuna sighted and caught (pole, not spear) all the way up here in Alaska this month. Crazy year. El nino and all that.
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Old 09-08-2015, 01:43 AM   #11
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!


I just spent 2 weeks working on the Pacific Dream out of Ilwaco fishing in that area, it's been wide open!

Kudos to you for hopping in the water!
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Old 09-09-2015, 04:51 PM   #12
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

just a note that I keep adding to the 'lessons learned' page. Keep the ideas coming and I can add them to that list so they're all in one place. the latest tip added above is Errin's 'dead log' technique.
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Old 09-09-2015, 11:19 PM   #13
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Great stuff!
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Old 09-09-2015, 11:28 PM   #14
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

Here's a lesson I learned. Northern birds are lazy compared to their Southern brethren (seems counter intuitive I know. In Southern waters I would never bother jumping in on birds unless it was a dive bombing frenzy. Here the birds were gathered in a large group but pretty much just calmly floating on the surface. Meanwhile right below them a school of 50 tuna was busily devouring a frightened, and quickly shrinking, ball of baitfish. It's definitely worth it to pull the boat up slowly to any large group of birds and dive in to check out what's happening below.
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Old 09-10-2015, 09:31 PM   #15
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Re: Oregon spearos - Albacore Tuna Success!

added 6 pics to the first posting. the latter 6.
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albacore, offshore, oregon, tuna

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