STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY CHANGING FACE OF TUNA FISHING
July 29, 2008 11:00 pm

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

State-of-the-art electronics have changed the face of tuna fishing as we know it today. With the GPS/SST cocktail, the good old days of tuna fishing are happening right now.

"Chart plotters on GPS units have really zeroed people in on staying with the fish once they find them," says Wayne Butler from Prowler Charters in Bandon. "It's a big ocean out there, and there's no land in sight in any direction, but you can always turn around and go right back over your tracks, staying in the area in your zone."

But what's really made all the difference in the world in finding albacore is a product called Terrafin (terrafin.com).

Terrafin is software created by Jeff Gammon. His invention enables charter and recreational vessels to locate tuna the day before their albie-quest by using sea surface temperatures (SST) in combination with chlorophyll readings.

Chlorophyll determines the amount of plankton available in a certain area. More chlorophyll means higher readings, and greener water. The less chlorophyll with corresponding lower readings means blue water.

What Gammon found out was that ideal, 62-degree tuna water doesn't necessarily spell T-U-N-A. Gammon says one of the most common things people do is overrun tuna when they should be fishing the edge of the chlorophyll readings in 58 degree water, but only under certain circumstances, like those found on July 26.

"If I find 56- to 58-degree water, I'll start putting out my tuna clones," says Tim Coakley, who slew 31 albacore in the upper 50-degree water on Saturday. "But I'll only put out my gear if that 58-degree water has 62-degrees or higher water connected with it."

In other words, if 58-degree water has a cold-water edge on the other side, don't bother putting out your gear.

However, if that 58-degree water is adjoining 59-, 60-, 61- and 62-degree water, and even hotter, by all means put out your Zukers, Cedar Plugs and clones, especially if there is an edge where green water meets the blue water.

More often than not, the tuna found on the edges of green and blue water are larger specimens, like the ones Coakley, aboard the Olive Oil and Wood, who skippered the Sea Doc found on July 26.

"Where the green water meets the blue water is more likely to produce," says Gammon.

Gammon says it was the Northern California commercial crew that pushed him to find a correlation between chlorophyll readings and tuna.

"After about a year or two we found the chlorophyll charts to be like gold," noted Gammon, who said they are probably the most under-utilized of all the charts.

"They really show you where that blue water is," explained Gammon. "We also found that for the salmon, it was the reverse. You want to find the water with the highest chlorophyll concentration. So the salmon guys would look for yellows and oranges, which would be the most off-color, most nutrient-rich water."

But you should still look for 62-degree water. If it should happen to meet the edges of a chlorophyll break, get out the canner.

Other vessels running in the same group that also found tuna were the Blue Water, Dragon Bait and Hoppy.