Long read and pix heavy - but thought you might want to see what's going on up north with the elusive albert. This was my report to friends and family --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Greetings fellow fishermen and fisherwomen – It was a long, tiring trip up to Washington this past week for the Washington Tuna Classic, which is now run by nonprofit Mission Outdoors who helps to support military veterans and the less fortunate in the Pacific Northwest. All fish donated for the tournament either provides food for the local food banks or the $$ gained from canning/selling is put back into Mission Outdoors for use on future programs. This year over 91,000 pounds of albacore were donated which equates to about $250k at the commercial rate. Our teams donation was 1,500# for three days of fishing. Mission Outdoors is taking over the running of the Oregon Tuna Classic next year, which has two separate tournaments one in Ilwaco and one in Garibaldi on different weekends. So next year might have to fish all three! Now on to the good stuff… Got a text from the captain earlier in the week who said weather is looking great all week and we want to fish an extra day to find fish, so I changed my tickets back 14 hours to I could get into Westport in time to jump on the boat to fish Thursday. We headed offshore at 5:00am with a crew of 4 on the new “Reel Hooker” who was just acquired a few weeks ago, a gorgeous 34’ Drummond Pursuit. One of our tournament team couldn’t make it in time, so we took a local salty 74 year old retired fisherman who wanted to go kill some tuna. Weather was flat calm as forecasted with overcast skies and a slight drizzle. Made it to the grounds in no time, cruising at 38 knots and rocking out to 1500 watt fusion system with a fish calling subwoofer Cut the engines when we hit the temp jump from 62 to 64 within a 1 miles span, threw in the broom tail zukers and within 2 minutes we were on. Couldn’t convert to a bait stop so off again. We did this all morning, with only a few fish picked up on each stop and no real bait stop kicking in. About noon we hit the mid-day lull, so decided to troll to different area further south straight out of Ilwaco. We got to the zone and realized that the water turned gin clear purple and the temp jumped to 66.5 and we started getting really giddy for the afternoon bite. Sure enough outside rod goes off, then then an inside rod goes off….while clearing the other 3 rods the long rod gets bit, game on. This was the school we were looking for. We had free swimmers blasting our chum below the boat and any bait we put in the water. Finally pulled the plug and left them biting as we had to get back by 5 in order to get fuel for the next day. Ended up with 29 for the day and big smiles from all. Nothing huge, with the big fish going 23# which we knew would not contend in the tourney (Total weight of 5 fish is entry). That night was the informal get together at “the mayors” house right off our float 12. They smoked two full pigs, 40 whole chickens and then the rest was a potluck free for all. So we ate good with a deep fry station set up for frites and the world famous John Rider egg roles, lots of different salads (both vegetable and pasta), many baked goods and a crap ton of beer and liquor. Great time telling tales and meeting new people. Day two – first official day of the tournament with the only pot for “Big Fish Friday”. Off we go in even better conditions, this time zero clouds and mirror pond water. Decided to run to the same spot we finished with the plan of trolling in towards the cold break, as we had intel from a friend not in the tourney who found bigger fish on the inside. This time we had our tourney crew, to make sure we were a well oiled machine for the big day. Arrived at our waypoint and didn’t even get the third rod in before we were on. Same thing as the day before, troll fish only and couldn’t convert to bait. Did this all morning again, moving to the inside break scratching away. Midday lull hits and it gets more scratchy. At this point we pick up a transmission on the 2 meter from one of the six pack boats that it just went wide open about 10 miles from us, so we picked up and ran down the line. Got to the numbers, put in the broom tails and started the troll. Within a few minutes I yell “JUMPERS” who were just off our port bow. Two off us chucked iron into the middle of the school and it’s fish on. This time the fish wanted to play and stayed with the boat and we got a legit bait stop going. Picked up 15 fish on that stop before they headed down and we had to clean up the carnage. It was getting later in the day and we were very close to plugged so we contemplated pulling the plug and running in to get to the fuel dock. Decided we would start a slow troll towards home….about five minutes into it, while getting gear/boat cleaned and stowed all 5 rods go off at once, sounding like a freight train. This was the sign! Boat plugged. Didn’t turn in a big fish, as our largest was 20# and we knew there was already a 24# turned in. Got the boat fueled, tied up and cleaned and off to get dinner and spy on the competition at the local pizza shop Game day – at the boat by 4:00 to get inline for bait…..three scoops of chovies and off to the starting line. Flare goes off at 5:45 for a shotgun start and 52 boats run out the bar, what a blast. Full on pucker factor with all those boats going that fast in a small space, but luckily we quickly pulled into the front being one of the bigger, faster boats. Put autopilot on the numbers we finished the day before on the killer bait stop, with the thought of starting there and again working East towards the cold break throughout the day. At about 6 miles short of our numbers, we hit a strong break right over a steep underwater ridge and the water looked great. So we decided to stop short and troll the last 5 miles to the numbers…..this was the best decision all day. Within 5 minutes we were hooked up and started a bait stop. This is where it get’s exciting as Big Mike the retired Air Force MP hooks up with something that doesn’t fight the same. Get it to color and BJ (our capt’n) takes a swing at the fish with the gaff and misses, hitting the leader, but not breaking at which time they start yelling BLUEFIN, BLUEFIN, BLUEFIN. The second shot didn’t miss and fish in the boat! Now this was only a 14# bft, but what makes is so special is that we are in the Pelagic Side Pot, which has carried over for 11 years and has a big payout. This is any pelagic other than an albacore weighed in at the station. Get back on the troll and start the same thing as the days before, scratch up 1’s2’s all morning. It’s been an afternoon bite….carbon copy. By midday we were past our prior day numbers, so decided to head even further south in search of even hotter water. Around 2:00 we find another break where it jumps up to almost 67 and right as we hit it, the zukes go off…hook up….double….triple…..quad…..watched each rod go down like a game of whack a mole. Brailed bait to get the school to stick while we cleared the troll fish. This is when it went wide open and free swimmers circling the boat, busting on chum, hitting anything that hit the water. Started fishing iron and top water for fun. The best part of this stop was one moment when BJ and I were hooked up next to each other on the starboard side and I see a ball of our bait start swimming from under the boat about 6 feet down. I say “watch this…it’s going to be an annihilation”…..no sooner did I get those words out 6 fish fly out from under the boat and make the ball disappear in flash of silver scales….simply epic. Finally we stop fishing because we know we are plugged, with fish lying all around the deck. After we finally got cleaned up and fish processed, it was a 20 fish stop and we were plugged with 35 albacore and one bluefin Get back to the weigh in and turn in our fish. We knew we didn’t have a chance at the overall weight, since we only had 93 pounds that we weighed on the boat and knew through radio chatter that many boats had multiple fish near 30#, BUT there was no radio chatter about any other pelagic. We also put in the pee wee pot and thought we had a legit chance at that, as we caught on at 7.4#. ….smallest I personally have ever seen. Get the boat all done and head back onto land to start the festivities. We were anxious all afternoon, as there were rumors that there was another bluefin and another rumor that there were three other bluefin weighed in. There was a marlin that was hooked on the grounds but lost, so we know that wasn’t going to get us. We had a good dinner provided by Aloha BBQ and sat through the auctions and raffles, in anticipation of the main event. Finally get to the awards and they run through all the pots and the winners on weight (we got beat out of the pee wee by a 6.4# damn!)…..they purposely stalled the pelagic pot to the very end since it was the largest payout and the awards which was 11 years in the making! It was agonizing, but finally get to the time and the announcer talks and talks and talks and finally says with a fourteen….that’s all we needed to hear and our table exploded. Team Ice Melter was the winner. Got high fives, hugs and take the stage to get our Publishers Clearing House size check and crystal trophy. Found out later from the crew running the tourney that they were scheming against us and started the rumors just to mess with us. We were the only bluefin weighed in BASTARDS! Special thanks to TackleDirect for our crew gear.