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September 10, 2012

This $%#@& boat ruined my tuna trip!

by Mike Jespersen

If you're an avid offshore angler, you've had an experience with another boat that has put a damper on what would have been an awesome offshore day. I know that I have....multiple times.

I'm having a great day fishing....got a stop going.... one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, they are coming over the rail like trout at the Sport Show. Bottom line is that it is "GAME ON!" and we're going for it. I've spent $50 in dead bait and got my guys all tuned in to keep the school of tuna at the boat so that we keep the school fed and the rods bent. Controlled bloody chaos. Just what everyone is looking for. Then it happens......

Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh,Duh-nuh,Duh-nuh,DUH-NUH,DUH-NUH,DUH-NUH...... Is that boat heading our way? What's that guy doing? Are YOU SERIOUS!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Screeches of terror followed by blood pressure going through the hard top, and the next thing you know, your beautifully orchestrated stop is done.

What happened? One minute you are enjoying fish at the boat readily taking iron jigs, swimbaits, live bait, or dead bait, and the next moment you are looking at a blank screen and the guys on the back deck are looking at each other like school kids wondering what to do next. The Party Crasher has arrived and killed your buzz, effectively ending everything you spent time building. Tears are spilled, weeping on the deck ensues, and the captain with a look that could split rocks with a glance throttles up and moves on, in search of a new stop to get started. Yeah, it really is like that. Until you have experienced the horror that is a Party Crasher, you really don't know what it is like. You've spent hours getting ready, two hours traveling offshore to a blank canvas, and then time prepping your work to get ready for business.....and then you've managed to get in a groove....only to have some unknown entity destroy your fragile house of cards. The true pain comes with the knowledge of how difficult it is to get to the point where you have "IT" going on, only to have someone else tear it down. Frustrating, no...maddening. There is nothing in river fishing that I have ever experienced like it. A blocked slot, an overzealous chalk of the anchor, a close troll.....all irritating, without doubt. But a Party Crasher 40 miles offshore..... C'mon!

Then it dawned on me, and some of this had to do with personal loss and a redirection of what is "really" important, that I spend a lot of time offshore. I happen to be fairly proficient at what I do. Let's face facts... people that fish in my area know who I am, and know my boat. In the emerging fishery that is offshore fishing in the Northwest, people that know what they are doing are "known". Might as well say that they are marked. As frustrating as losing a stop is, the fact that you are a good enough fisherman to develop a stop and work that stop is pretty impressive. Now I won't be silly and state that there is a Zen attitude that goes along with tuna fishing and that anyone that is proficient enough to do well should accept the fact that others are going to target them as a focal point of their day....but maybe I'll just subtlety suggest it. The truth of the matter is that though we have an abundance of very talented, very knowledgeable anglers in the Northwest, only a fraction of those go offshore. Where it is common knowledge in other locales to understand that there is in fact etiquette to fishing 40 miles offshore, in the Northwest, many are so new that they just don't know any better. It become reasonable to understand that to the novice, the idea that if they get "sort of close", they too can get in on the success that another boat is having. Would 50 yards away be too close in the river? Not a chance. If an angler is accustomed to a hog line, or a close troll at Oregon City, why would they think that shouting distance is too close offshore? The rules of the game have changed, but who told them the rules?

I will submit that I've had days that others have "ruined" my trip and I have got bent out of shape. I've had the One Stop Shop set up and going with customers only to have it interrupted by the Party Crasher and had to spend the rest of the day looking for fish. In my scenario the upsetting factor has always been that I have paying customers and that someone else has impacted the opportunity that they have had. In the case of the private guy, it is that they only have a number of days offshore each year, and a lost day is heartbreaking. Frustration is pretty evident back at the dock.

But.... And here is the big but that I have had to contend with... Perhaps my day was not "ruined". Perhaps, just possibly if I look at the scenario with a different perspective, the successful angler should look at the Party Crasher as a sign that they are doing what others aspire to do. In the world of Offshore Fishing in the Northwest the elite anglers are rarely the professional anglers running charters, but the very elite private boats. In the Northwest most serious anglers know the names of all the very best guides on the rivers. In the ranks of the "best" fisherman, the good private guys are respected just as much as the best guides. When it comes to Offshore Fishing in the Northwest, the best private guys are the most often the ones that are leading the way.

I'll be the first to admit that I've felt others have "ruined" my day by disrupting what I was trying to do. I know that I could have done better as far as fish counts go had someone else not interfered with my day. It is a different world, and a different set of rules that we play by offshore. At the same time, I have come to the conclusion that it is ok, and that when my customers and myself are experiencing some of the greatest fishing that we have ever seen in the Northwest, feeling that someone else has ruined my day is silly. We are in the midst of a fishery that is expanding exponentially, and there are some tough lessons to be learned. A few short years ago my day might have been ruined by someone else crashing my party....now....well, it is bothersome, but how can my day be ruined by participating in the most exciting fishery in the Northwest in decades?

If you are a blossoming offshore fishing fanatic, take time to learn the ins and the outs of fishing with other boats. The rules of the road that you have learned inshore may seem like they are appropriate, but the reality is that they may not. If you are an offshore boater that has honed the craft to near perfection..... Well, we're all still learning. As frustrating as it is to have someone else shut down what you have built up...take yourself back a few years and try to realize that most people that are not doing something negative on purpose, but probably just learning themselves. A few years ago it might have been you with just blue cord and clones.....





August 12, 2012

Offshore in one Word

by Mike Jespersen

Magical.

While there are many adjectives that can be used to describe the offshore waters of the Northwest, nothing seems more fitting in my opinion than the word magical. It doesn't always seem that way. There are times, more often than not in reality, that the waters off the Oregon Coast are a cruel mistress. Try as we might to head westward, we are turned back for days or weeks on end. Tides, bar conditions, swell, wind waves, and more must be considered and contended with just to get to the start of the trip. Many days that we do get out, rough, cold water finds its way through gear designed to keep it out, and hands go numb as knots are tied and crab lines put into blocks. At the end of the day, there's no quick departure from boat and gear as salt finds its way into everything and without a thorough cleaning gear corrodes and breaks down. To be a confident, competent mariner and angler means a lot of work and a lot of effort, but the rewards are incredible.


Those of us in the Northwest are fortunate beyond measure to live in an area where just offshore are pristine reefs that are teeming with life. Within five minutes of my home port of Depoe Bay is the Government Point Reef where various rockfish and lingcod abound. During the summer salmon season, small boats make a parade out the hole to just past the Whistle Buoy and drop downriggers and divers to hook up on coho and kings that are a barely more than a stones throw from Highway 101. Those who spend more time on the water eventually find themselves dropping their crab pots first thing in the morning while they go try their luck for the already mentioned species, or perhaps halibut either close in, or in depths up to 800 feet miles from shore. Returning to the dock with halibut or, "white gold", and a box full of Dungeness crab it is hard not to feel an accomplishment that is unique to the Northwest. Then there is the tuna. TUNA! The Northwest has one of the premiere albacore tuna fisheries in the world, with heavy concentrations moving within small boat distances for anglers to fill pantries for the year in short order. This fishery in particular has exploded in popularity as anglers come to realize the opportunity that presents itself.

The fishing off the Coast of Oregon is incredible, but what makes our offshore waters magical is when it is combined with everything else. It starts for me with the Port of Depoe Bay, the Worlds Smallest Harbor. Seven acres of natural safe haven with a 50 foot wide winding rock cleft "hole" that provides access to and from the Pacific. From there it is the great unknown of what you will find each day as you head west, with throttles down, and the first shimmers of sunrise reflecting off the low clouds to the east. It is impossible not to feel eager with anticipation as your boat rises and falls with the swells on the path that only you have plotted. North, South, West, and after heading offshore for awhile, even back East, in search of your goal for the day. Some days as you head to your destination all of a sudden there is spray a short distance from the boat. Porpoise! There may be 5 or 10 or even more, and they often change direction and come to you so they can play in the bow wake until their curiosity is done. Later it might be a plume of spray in the air as whales are spotted… Is it one of the "resident" Gray Whales that feed off our coast from May until October, or perhaps a Humpback, Pilot, Orca, or even a Blue Whale. It is hard not to feel small when surrounded by seemingly endless miles of water and coming face to face with the largest creatures that have ever lived on earth. Out of sight of land the water warms and turns blue as the chlorophyll dissapates. Frigates and albatross soar through the sky and bait balls appear with boils of fish pushing them to the surface. Kelp paddies are sought out for the mysteries they keep- Yellowtail? Dorado? Pomfret? This is no longer the Northwest, it's OZ, and the skipper is the Wizard.

In future posts I'll do my best to share some of what I have found to be so magical about the Northwest Offshore as well as tips and information to help others explore offshore in a safe and productive manner. For now, look Westward and use your imagination.
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