Angler holding a large albacore tuna
Marine Zone

Tuna fishing in Oregon

Can lead to fast fishing for hot fish
July 9, 2020

Albacore tuna fishing can offer nonstop action landing fast-moving, hard-fighting fish. Charter trips make tuna fishing accessible to all anglers. In addition, many well-equipped private boat anglers have been making the long trips offshore. If you don't see tuna fishing for yourself, we've even included a brief video on how to buy fresh Oregon tuna from a commercial fisherman at the dock.

Albacore: A newer Oregon fishery

The recreational fishery for albacore off Oregon was a late development worth waiting for. Although historically there had been some interest in the albacore fishery from a handful of charter vessels and a few private boats, the fishery really began to see substantial growth beginning in about the year 2000.

The number of anglers pursuing albacore tuna off the Oregon coast continues to grow. The 2019 sport albacore season saw 102,510 albacore landed by 15,311 angler trips – the most albacore ever recorded from the recreational fishery off Oregon.

What makes tuna worth the effort

image of a anglers cleaning a large number of tuna
A generous bag limit is a big plus for tuna anglers.

Albacore tuna are not the easiest fish to get to, but there are several things that make these fish worth the effort:

  • Thrilling hook ups with fast-moving, hard-fighting fish.
  • Potential for non-stop action.
  • Delicious, fresh albacore tuna.
  • A generous 25-fish bag limit (in aggregate with other offshore species) – enough to fill a freezer, or to invest in a canner and a lot of jars.

 

Where and when to catch albacore

Most years, tuna fishers must travel 30 miles or more offshore to find albacore. The fish start migrating into the waters off Oregon around the end of June, and are most commonly found in waters with surface temperature of 60 degrees or more with “clear blue water*.” The best fishing is typically in July and August, but fish are usually still available through early October.

Albacore tuna tend to travel in single-species schools, so once you find a school the action can be fast and furious.  But don’t be surprised if you happen to catch one of the other pelagic species that are out there.  Species like bluefin tuna, opah, yellowtail, Pacific pomfret, dorado (dolphinfish), and thresher shark have all shown up in the catches by tuna anglers off Oregon.  

* “Clear blue water” is technically defined as 0.25 mg or less of chlorophyll per cubic meter. That’s pretty clear, and blue.

Oregon-caught tuna are good for you

The young tuna caught off the Oregon coast are just starting their cross-Pacific journey and are three to five years old. Most albacore caught by Oregon anglers are between 12 and 30 pounds. They are high in the desirable omega-3 oil.

Because of their young age, the fish caught off of Oregon have reduced mercury accumulation in their meat, compared to those caught in many other areas, according to the Oregon Albacore Commission (Oregon Department of Agriculture).

How to catch albacore

A load of fish and happy anglers from a commercial charter
Charters make tuna fishing accessible to most anglers.

Recreational albacore tuna fishing is most typically by surface trolling jigs or plugs. More recently anglers have been casting lures, angling with live or dead bait, and deep jigging. All these techniques can be successful.

Due to the distance from shore and the highly variable and sometimes volatile marine fishing conditions off the Oregon Coast, this fishery requires specialized boating and safety equipment and a good maritime knowledge base.

Fortunately, several ports on the Oregon coast host private charter boats the offer the transportation, specialized gear and fishing expertise needed to make albacore fishing available to many anglers.

Check the weekly Recreation Report to get the latest on current tuna fishing conditions. Visit this page to learn more about Oregon’s albacore tuna fishery – including management and annual catch information.

Buying tuna from the dock

You don't have to catch the fish yourself to enjoy Oregon tuna -- not when you can buy it fresh off the boat.

Kaety Hildenbrand of Oregon Sea Grant Extension shows you how to buy an Albacore Tuna directly from a commercial fisherman: questions to ask, what to expect, and what you need to bring to get your fish home safely.

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