Locally, albacore fishing has certainly taken a giant step in popularity off the mouth of the Columbia River.

With a recent surge of warm water off our coast, many recreational fishermen are taking advantage of the opportunity to become a part of this exciting fishery.

As more and more smaller boats venture out into the Pacific Ocean, it gets crowded, as anyone who fished this past Saturday will agree. Saturday was the start of the Oregon Tuna Tournament; a charitable event held out of Hammond, Ore., its purpose to provide albacore for Oregon food banks.

Because of choppy seas and a 6-foot swell at six seconds, many small boats did not participate, but those that did contributed enough congestion. The problem arises when the recreation boats arrive in an area where charter boats are fishing. Some recreational fishers show little fishing etiquette. They have a tendency to crowd the charter boats and follow them like baby ducks behind their mother.

One time I stopped my boat, waved the recreational boat over, and had a "little conservation" with the boat's skipper. He had been relentless in following so close behind my boat that he was almost trolling on top of my feathers. Despite wave-offs and shouts, he paid no attention and did not take the hint.

Another favorite ploy of recreational boats is to troll as close as possible to a charter or other commercial boat that is making a live bait stop. When this happens, it kills the fishing immediately. When a boat fishing tuna is dead in the water, other boats should stay at least 300 yards away. Water is a great conductor of sound and when a charter boat is throwing bait in order to bring albacore to the surface, the last thing needed are the screws of another trolling boat 100 feet away.

Many times charter boats will work a spot, with as many as three boats working in conjunction, throwing bait, and criss-crossing an area. You don't want to get in the middle of that - makes for real bad feelings.

The more boats you get together working a small area, the quicker you will stop the bite and send the tuna into deep water. There is just no need for it; there are miles of ocean to work - don't depend on other boats to find your fish. Depend on yourself and other fishermen on your boat. There are many indicators to find fish and when you work alone and find the fish, you will have them all to yourself. Keep a close eye on water temperature changes, birds (some are more reliable than others), fish finders, rips and jumpers.

The real tragedy of this year's tuna season is the lack of live bait in Ilwaco. A port of this size, the largest on the Lower Columbia, should have live bait. I have been very close to this, and there are several parties involved, but the Port of Ilwaco has not taken the initiative and had the perseverance to put this program together. A phone call here and there and double talk is not going to get it done. More on this embarrassing situation next week.

Ron Malast is skipper of the charter boat Big Dipper working out of Sea Sport Fishing Charters in Ilwaco, 866-211-6611

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