Day 1: September 20th
Friday was the official kick off for the 2013 Bamfield Tuna Shootout. Eager crews had long awaited this day and everyone was excited to see what the week would hold. Forecasts varied greatly, depending on the weather provider but it was clear there would be some snotty water to be had. With some uncertainty surrounding what the weather gods would do, the captains prepared their rigs for the week, iced their holds and headed west for the derbies start.
In fitting fashion, the derby started off that evening at the Bamfield Pub. With many crews being new to the Tuna Fishery, we were extremely lucky to have the guys from Qcove Fishing Tackle come to town to give a Tuna Seminar. This seminar covered a huge range of related topics such as various water types, equipment and techniques. Even the more experienced Tuna captains agreed that they learned a great deal of valuable information that would set them up well in the week to come.
(Some of the prize table. Every derby entrant won a number of prizes thanks to the huge support of sponsors)
Following the Tuna presentation we had members of the local Bamfield Coast Guard crew give a brief speech outlining some safety precautions that need to be taken into account with such an offshore fishery. They discussed which channels they would be monitoring, who would respond to any incidents and what the correct protocols are if an emergency ever occurred. Finally they explained that each day they would observe the weather and decide on if the derby would be given a green or red light. Green light would mean the derby is a go and a red light meant the derby was closed for that day and no fish could be weighed in. They informed that while Saturday looked sporty, with forecasted 3 meter swells lingering they were giving it a green light due to low winds. With that, a few beers and some hamburgers the crews dispersed to prepare for the week of fishing.
(crews listen intently to the Qcove Seminar)
Day 2: September 21st
Saturday marked the first day of fishing as the Coast Guard had given the fleet a green light. The swell reports indicated big waters offshore with 3 meter lump lingering from the day before with very low winds on top. Most crews bowed out, awaiting more civilized weather or chose to stay closer to shore, pursuing halibut, but 6 boats decided to make the rough ride fifty miles offshore. The week before a number of boats had experienced good fishing in the Nitinat Canyon region but satellite shots showed that good water had moved. The fleet spread out along the canyons with very limited results during the first half of the day.
(Jon waiting with anticipation for the first hit that wouldn’t come until after noon)
The Western Warrior to the south end of Nitinat Canyon reported a few fish early on and the Ocean Pearl to the north in Louden Canyon also was onto fish. It was mid afternoon however that the crew aboard the Trophy Hunter began to find better numbers off of Barkely Canyon and let the fleet know their coordinates over the radio. This tip ended up saving the day for most of the boats as they too began to hit fish steadily in the last few hours of the day.
(The Trophy Hunter crew after calling out coordinates to the rest of the fleet)
(The Well Anyways crew enjoying their first time Tuna fishing! After day 1 they would hold top spot)
(The Fifth Element hooked up on a fish that would turn into a quintuple!)
Fifth Element, Reef Raider, Why Knot, Ocean Pearl, Trophy Hunter and a few commercial trollers worked the region until the end of the day with catches ranging from 8-30 fish per boat. As the sun lowered the crews all began the long run in for weigh in. The size average was quite small with a peanut of 9.75 lbs being caught by Andrew aboard the Reef Raider (this fish would go on to win $500 as the derbies smallest). After weigh in, some crews cleaned their fish in the dark, while others left theirs on ice to be cleaned in the morning and caught up on some well deserved sleep.
(Andrew, Guy and Terry entering the harbour aboard the Reef Raider)
(Crews weighing in their top fish at Mckay Bay Lodge)
Standings after day 2
5.Western Warrior-No weigh in
6.Ocean Pearl- No weigh in
Day 3: September 22nd
As forecasted, the weather gods closed down the party…. 4-6 meter swells and 40+ knot winds ensured a red light from the Coast Guard and kept all of the fleet firmly tied to the docks. Some crews used the morning to clean fish from the previous day while others caught up on lost sleep.
(The Fifth Element crew cleaning their catch from the previous day)
Knowing there is always something to get up to in Bamfield, Jon and Kelly decided to take advantage of the stormy fall conditions to chase another type of prey. Heavy rains and wind make prime Blacktail Deer weather so after cleaning their Tuna from the day before, the two met up with Clay and set off for the local hills. Shortly into the hunt they found what they were looking for and harvested a nice little Coastal Blacktail.
As the evening fell, plans came together for a dinner party at Jeff’s place. A number of crews showed up and enjoyed a truly impressive west coast feast as the rain fell. Fresh Blacktail Deer, Halibut, Coho, Prawns and of course Tuna made up the courses.
(Torch seared Tuna, panfried Blacktail back straps, fresh coho, sashimi and the list goes on…what a meal)
Day 4: September 23rd
Big swell still persisted, once again closing down the derby. A few crews snuck out to try and fish Halibut and Coho closer to shore with decent results. One boat even hit a nice, late mature Chinook! Overall it was a pretty quiet day as crew spent much of their day on the internet tracking the weather systems moving through. The big low pressure system had finally passed but it was clear it was going to take some time before the waters settled down. Tuesday again looked unfishable, with Wednesday looking possible and Thursday being the best shot of the week. Fingers were crossed, boats were prepped and weather dances were carefully executed.
(This was Monday’s satellite shot. Unsettled weather off the BC Coast and a huge low pressure system developing off Alaska that would make landfall on Saturday)
Day 5: September 24th
The pattern repeated itself with very large swells offshore but the wind had finally dropped. Coast Guard chose to give the green light but upon seeing the ugly weather reports most crews went back to bed. One of the larger boats with a very experienced crew decided they were comfortable with the conditions and late in the morning after the winds had decreased slightly, they made the run out. Everyone eagerly awaited their report on the offshore weather conditions and fishing. Mid evening they returned, reporting large swell but low winds and good fishing. They managed a dozen fish of a larger grade, which moved them into a first place standing on the aggregate! This success only added fire to the crews awaiting their weather window that was quickly coming.
(The hardcores aboard the Tuna Pig! Photo courtesy of Derek Resch)
Standings after day 5
6.Western Warrior-No weigh in
7.Ocean Pearl- No weigh in
Day 6: September 25th
Wednesday’s forecast was for a continued, large 3 meter swell and fluctuating winds. It was an ugly forecast but better than previous days. 6 boats made the decision to head out. Rodzilla, Captain Kidd, DAK, Tunapig, Pai Lolo, Knot to Worry and Willie’s Rig. They all pounded out and congregated on Barkley Canyon where the fish had been on the previous days. With tough conditions they all managed to find fish with the highest catches around 20 Albacore. Rodzilla was able to capitalize on a nice grade of fish, pushing them past Tunapig and into first place with a 100.1 lb total aggregate. They started the day as Tuna virgins and finished it as leaders of Western Canada’s first Tuna derby.
(Captain Kidd and a commercial troller working a school in big swells. Photo courtesy of Derek Resch)
(Rodzilla fired up on their first Tuna adventure. Photo courtesy of Derek Resch)
(The Rodzilla crew with a couple of their day 6 catch)
While the fleet fished hard for Albacore in the Canyons, Kelly and Jon sat on the anchor inshore looking for some Halibut. While it was not hot, they did manage to scrape up a nice one. The ability to experience so many fisheries in one day is one of the best parts of the derby. The trifecta of Tuna, Halibut and Salmon in one day is always available.
This day also marked the arrival of the majority of derby entrants with the fleet meeting in the evening at the weigh in station and Mills Landing. It was quite the sight to see 30 rigged tuna boats all tied to one dock! Plans were made over a few beers on who would begin where, in order to spread the fleet out and capitalize on covering water. Thursday looked like the best weather window with 1.5 meter seas and light winds. As dark settled and the bonfire dimmed, crews headed out to get some shuteye before the big day.
(The harbour lit up with deck lights as captains give their boats last minute preparations on Wednesday evening)
Standings after day 5
- Rodzilla-100.1 8.Captain Kidd-92.5
2.Willies Rig-98.5 9.Trophy Hunter-88.0
3.Pai Lolo-98.0 10.Fifth Element-75
4.DAK-96.5 11.Reef Raider-72.50
5.Tuna Pig-96.5 12.Western Warrior-No weigh in
6.Knot to Worry- 96.0 13.Ocean Pearl- No weigh in
- Well Anyways-94.75
Day 7: Sept 26th
“Thursdays the day!” had been echoing through town the whole week. The forecast made it clear this would be the best weather window of the derby with 1.5m swells and light winds. Upon waking up however, most saw that the buoy report still showed challenging conditions of 2.8 meter swells and 15 knot winds. Nonetheless crews prepared for war, meeting in front of Mills Landing at the government dock and loading ice in the darkness of 0500. Last minute details and coordinates were discussed as crews eagerly pushed off with the adrenaline of the Tuna fishery flowing.
(The fleet leaving the harbour at first light)
In the lingering darkness, a fleet of 30 boats pulled out of the harbor, headed down Trevor Channel and out into open water towards the Canyons. It was a surreal sight with the glowing lights of so many boats around you, appearing and disappearing in the large swells. Boats headed out along the Canyons from Nitinat in the south to Louden in the north. The rough conditions resulted in a long pound out to the grounds but the radio soon lit up with reports of fish. It was obvious Barkley to the South edge of Louden was the area to be. Here there were scattered schools of the Tuna with most action occurring in the form of double to triple headers.
(The BC Tough Crew into a quintuple header of Albacore)
(The chaotic aftermath that makes Tuna fishing such a rush)
(Guy aboard the Reef Raider, pinned at the rail with a big Albacore)
(Hand bombing it in)
As the day wound down it was clear that everyone had caught solid numbers of fish and most expected some big changes on the leader board. By late afternoon the weather had finally settled down to a low northwest swell which allowed for a much faster run to the weigh in. At the Mckay Bay dock, boats lined up to weigh in, as darkness began to fall.
(Bad Habits sorting through their days catch at the weigh in)
(The Hardy Boys with a processing line)
Catches ranged from 10 to a staggering 50 fish per boat. Tuna were carefully chosen and placed on the scale while the numbers were crunched. After the dust settled the top three spots had all changed. Freedom 22, the smallest boat in the fleet had taken over first place with a 110.5 lb aggregate that included the derbies largest fish, a 30 lb albacore. Second place was overtaken by the boys at Big Coast. Not only did they manage to film an episode for their TV show, they caught an impressive 109 lb aggregate. Finally in third place was Willies Rig with a 101.85 lb aggregate.
With two days remaining these standings were by no means final but everyone knew they would be tough to beat. Friday had a weather system moving in mid afternoon which would likely keep most of the fleet inshore and Saturday was a write-off with storm force winds. Three boats however had yet to weigh in, choosing to ride things out overnight in the canyons in hopes of fishing Friday morning. The other crews, having weighed in, celebrated the successful day with a few brews and began the long process of cleaning the catch. while others hit the racks, leaving the fish on ice to be cleaned in the morning.
(The cleaning stations were busy late into the night)
Standings after day 7
1.Freedom 22- 110.5 12.Bad Habits-95.5
2.Big Coast-109.0 13.Beach Glass-95
3.Willey’s Rig-101.85 14.Well Anyway-94.75
4.Pai Lolo-101.5 15. Double Header-94
5.Ocean Pearl- 100.5 16.Captain Kidd-92.5
6.Rodzilla-100.1 17.Sculpin- 92
7.San Mateo-98.5 18. Alberta-91.5
8.DAK-96.5 19.Trophy Hunter-88
9.Rocky Point-96.5 20.Fifth Element-75
- Tuna Pig-96.5 21.Reef Raider 72.5
11.Knot to Worry-96 22.BC Tough-No Weigh in
- Western Warrior-No Weigh in
Day 8: September 27th
Friday morning showed an interesting buoy report offshore with only 1.5 meter northwest swells but at a very short interval of 5 second and gusty southeast winds . Experienced local crews knew that these conditions were not something to be taken lightly. When the northwest swells stack up upon themselves at such a short interval it results in a backbreaking and sometimes dangerous ride offshore. Most boats bowed out while a few chewed at the bit on whether to give it a try. Mid morning a few boats had enough and chose to check the conditions out for themselves. The results were as expected with boats only making 10 knots and getting pounded doing it. After realizing the extremely long run out at those speeds, most turned in for shore to try their hand at coho and bottom fish. The largest boat in the fleet however had different ideas. At over 40 feet the Pai-LoLo, a gorgeous Blackfin designed for such conditions was able to successfully pound through the swell 60 miles out to the grounds. This meant that 4 boats were still left to weigh in fish on the final evening.
(A full crew fishing Coho aboard the Captain Kidd)
It was not long before the offshore conditions and full holds forced most boats inshore to weigh in. Tuna Don, Fifth Element and Knot to Worry all came telling of great fishing but poor weather conditions. Overnight winds had picked up to gale force while they were drifting, resulting in a lost sea anchor and 12 mile drift. Their catches, while impressive with 30-40 fish each were not enough to change the top 3.
(Blair and Jason aboard Tuna Don weighing in their catch)
That left only one boat, the Pai-LoLo. A number of crews hung around the weigh in waiting as darkness fell, with no sign of the final boat. The last minutes of weigh in ticked away when suddenly the sound of large diesels and techno crept into the harbour. True to form the Pai LoLo had arrived!
As the numbers were tallied, it became final that the top 3 had held their positions. With Saturday being a red light, that meant the 2013 Bamfield Tuna Shootout was at a wrap! Freedom 22 had walked away with the title, five thousand dollars and bragging rights for next year. In true fisherman fashion, the celebrations continued with stories and lies being swapped late into the night.
Standings Day 8
1.Freedom 22- 110.5 13.Knot to Worry-96
2.Big Coast-109.0 14.Bad Habits-95.5
3.Willey’s Rig-101.85 15.Beach Glass-95
4.Pai Lolo-101.5 16.Well Anyway-94.75
5.Ocean Pearl- 100.5 17. Double Header-94
6.Rodzilla-100.1 18.Captain Kidd-92.5
7.San Mateo-98.5 19.Sculpin- 92
8.Fifth Element-98.5 20. Alberta-91.5
- Tuna Don-98 21.Trophy Hunter-88
10.DAK-96.5 22.Reef Raider 72.5
11.Rocky Point-96.5 23.BC Tough-No Weigh in
- Tuna Pig-96.5 24. Western Warrior-No Weigh in
Day 9: September 28th
Everyone awoke to the sounds of heavy wind and rain pounding on the windows. A huge low pressure system had moved onto the coast, bringing hurricane force wind warnings and torrential rains. Whitecaps in the harbour ensured that the fleet was going to stay firmly tied to the docks today. With the awards at 5, crews spent the day packing up and preparing for their trips home.
(One of the local bears coming to check things out on the dock while crews cleaned up)
The Bamfield Volunteer Fire Department had generously allowed the use of their facilities for the awards ceremony, even providing a warm meal of biscuits and stew for the weary crews. An amazing array of prizes from the many sponsors were laid out and ensured all crews would walk away winners. Everyone was able to sit down, enjoy a meal and recap the amazing week.
The top three winners received their cheques and Albacore trophies that were generously donated by Anvil Island Design. First place Freedom 22 won both the largest aggregate and largest fish.
(The 2013 Bamfield Tuna Shootout winners)
Second place went to the crew from Big Coast and third went to Willey’s Rig. The winner of the smallest fish at 9.75 lbs went to Reef Raider. After the awards were finished, the draws began and each crew walked away with a number of prizes to take home.
(The third place finishers from Willey’s Rig accepting their award)
(Matt from The Fifth Element was the big draw winner, walking away with an HDS 7 touchscreeen courtesy of Harbour Chandler)
A huge thank you goes out to all the crews and sponsors that made this event such a success. BC Tough was proud to be a part of it and we are looking forward to expanding the event in the future. Stay tuned as plans for the 2014 Bamfield Tuna Shootout have already begun….
Humminbird Bamfield Sportfishing Rocky Point Fishing Charters
Trophy Hunter Charters Underground Performance Cycles Fifth Element Charters
Mckay Bay Lodge Anvil Island Design Bamfield General Store
Bamfield Fire Department Qualia Reels Bearcove Cottages