The inaugural Bounty in the Blue Tuna Classic was hosted by Oli’s Fishing Charters between the 3rd and 7th of September 2020. Oli’s is located in Quatsino Sound’s Winter Harbour which offers access to terrific inshore and offshore fishing from Vancouver Island’s northwest coast.
Albacore tuna, often called longfin tuna, have been grabbing headlines and catching angler interest, especially in recent years. The west coast of the Island is the go-to destination for this exciting angling experience, as offshore warmer water brings these magnificent fish within reach for day trips. Tuna action is particularly hot for a 5 to 6-week period through August and September. Commercial fishermen have been harvesting these powerful fish sporadically since 1940, but anglers have more recently come to the game as technology like AIS and weather mapping software has made the sport more predicative, and safe. Also, as salmon opportunities have been in decline, many anglers are keen to test their mettle in this, ‘not for the faint of heart’ experience. Cost, the right boat in top condition, a high level of offshore west coast knowledge and experience are just a few of the mandatory requirements. However, increased interest has spawned a number of tuna derbies, and “Bounty in the Blue” is the newest in it’s inaugural year.
Tuna are an offshore, highly mobile species, so derbies are run over a number of days to give the competitors a shot at locating the roaming schools of fish. Tuna like water temperatures around 60+ degrees Fahrenheit, and when the temperature break pushes to within 40 miles of the coast, its “game on” for anglers. This is exactly what happened according to derby organizer, Glen Olson. The participants hit fish 35 miles offshore trolling Zuker tuna feathers and Magnum Rapalas behind splasher tuna floats at 5 to 8 knots. There were no limitations of the gear that could be used so lures were rigged on heavy rods or run off hand-lines.
Nineteen teams, including one from as far away as Vernon BC, paid the $500 entry fee for the chance to claim the top spot based on a four fish aggregate total weight. Prizes were also offered for 2nd and 3rd place and for the daily top aggregate weight catch. The major winners took home all inclusive trips sponsored by Wade Daley’s Wicked Salmon Charters in Port Hardy, Ryan Chamberland’s Vancouver Island Fishing Lodge in Sooke, and Steve Tennant’s Northwest Fishing Team on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
According to Glen they had good weather on 4 of the 5 days. The fishing was decent in ideal 63-65 degree F water. Daily boat catches ranged from 4 to 20 tuna including many fish in the 20 to 25 pound class.
First place went to Barney Bjerneland’s Tuna Maxx team and his crew of Tom McPhail, Bruce Burrows, and Chris Martin. They recorded an aggregate four fish total of 100.1 pounds or a hair over 25 pounds per fish average.
Captain Barney was all compliments about the derby and the staff, “We had a fantastic time at Oli’s. Thanks to a great crew and a little luck we held on for first place. Chasing tuna off the west coast should be on every serious fisherman’s bucket list”.
Wade Dayley from the Longfin Longshots added, “Having the warm water and big tuna come in closer to Vancouver Island than anywhere else on the west coast makes this the go to tuna derby of the season”.
Second place went to Glenn Olson’s team which included, Devon Knapfl, Stephanie Stewart, Mellissa Stewart, and Nadine Biggs.
Third place was taken by team Bust a Reel, comprised of Ian Kirby, John Koehn, Montagu Lee, and Joel Unickow who was said, “If you want to test your skill and your stamina, try tuna fishing offshore of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It’s a lot of work, and not for the faint of heart, but it’s an absolute blast!”
Glenn Olson says the derby is on for next year, but the entry fee is going up to $800 per boat.