Happy Thursday everyone.
The last two weeks can be summed up with one word — Wow. Wow, wow and wow again.
This has so far been THE tuna season to rival all tuna seasons for the sport fleet. We have seen quantities for a lot of boats from 50 or 60 fish all the way to quantities in the 90s. One of our ODFW fish checkers told us that last week we have beat all one-day tuna landing records for this area!
If you head out there and break 100 fish on your sport boat, come and see us at the shop. We’ll take your picture with your catch and give you some cool Basin Tackle “stuff”!
As I write this, the wind is on day three of a week-long or longer beat down and we can only keep watching in anticipation of a break to head out and see where the albacore are now. Before the wind started blowing, customers reported fish as close at 15 miles, with the bulk being 33 miles straight west at the 125 line, which is pretty common for us. At 33 miles, we have some of the closest tuna fishing on the West Coast, and our Charleston Marina and Coos Bay water system are some of the best launch pads for recreation in the world.
I always smile inside when folks ask about two- or three-day tuna charters and their jaws drop when I tell them they can plug a boat full and be back in time for dinner on day one. Sharky's Charters has been doing this every day the ocean is fishable. He’s like the Energizer Bunny and keeps going and going and going. Keep getting ‘em, Captain John!
The rockfish bite remains great and the lingcod bite is starting to pick back up after what I’m guessing was a post-spawn break from being the most aggressive fish in the ocean. Crabbing has slowed in the ocean but has picked up in the bay as of late. If one thing is slow it always seems something else will pick up and make up for it around here.
I’ve had a lot of people calling and asking about sardines lately to use for bait and I thought this would be a good topic for the week and to get the word out on what’s going on with them.
Last year the Pacific Fishery Management Council shut down commercial sardine fishing on the West Coast. This measure was put in place as estimates indicate there may only be 106,000 metric tons of spawning-capable sardines off our coast and the minimum sustainable quantity is estimated to be 150,000 metric tons. There are a few minor exceptions for research, small amounts to be harvested for live bait, and incidental bycatch. But other than that they’re pretty much off limits.
The Pacific sardine is a schooling coastal pelagic fish identified by its beautiful blue-green color on its back and a series of black spots running along the middle of its body. For those of you that are not tuna fishermen/women, pelagic basically means they live in the open ocean and do not normally inhabit inland tributaries or bodies of water. Located from southern Alaska to northern Mexico these plentiful and important parts of the marine food chain live from 5 to 13 years, feeding only on plankton, and growing to 12 inches in length.
Following the warmer Pacific currents as they move north, sardines spawn from May to July and in warmer climates can even spawn several times a year, laying eggs that hatch in only three days! NOAA’s best estimate in 2014 is that there are 369,506 metric tons of these critters, which translates to over 814 million pounds, or approximately enough fish to fill a half dozen cans of Costco sized pickled sardines.
In 2012, 197 million pounds of Pacific sardines were harvested. Of this, approximately 25 percent were consumed domestically, both fresh and canned. I found this really surprising as I know no one that will admit to eating a canned sardine. Y’all can come out from hiding now, I’m pretty sure more than one person ate 49 million pounds of these fish.
A relatively small amount of these fish also end up being used for bait. Their oily flesh is used with great success by salmon and striper fishermen and women. The remaining 75 percent are mostly frozen and shipped to Japan for human consumption and to Australia for use as feed in their domestic bluefin tuna farming operations.
Sardines are just another one of the many amazing creatures that make our backyard that we call the Pacific Ocean the awe-inspiring place it is. Whether you are chasing a tuna or eating a sardine I hope to see you out there.
Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888 3811, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles can be read in several newspapers up and down the coast. The Basin Tackle daily Outdoor Report is heard every morning and afternoon on several coastal and inland radio stations and his Basin Tackle Outdoor Show can be heard live every Wednesday at 3 p.m. on KWRO.com. In addition to all this he sometimes actually gets out and catches a fish or two.