We turn on the puller and it reels the fish within a few yards of the back of the boat where we then take the line and pull it by hand, dragging the fish closer and then lifting it over the rail.We don’t let the reel bring the fish too close to the back of the boat, because we find we can adjust the tension of the line better by hand as the boat lifts and drops on the swell. The albacore line can really cut up our hands, especially if it slips, so we use ‘gloves’: motorcycle innertubes Harvey cuts into strips that go around our palms and fingers. Harvey gets teased a lot about being old-fashioned because he won't use store-bought gloves. But what do those young 'uns know anyway? Even with our 'gloves', we always have multiple cuts and calluses within a few weeks. When a fish pulls strongly, the line sometimes slips and cuts our hands. And of course there are hooks and fish teeth. We use disinfectant (bleachy hand wash) every evening to prevent problems.
What do you do once you've caught a fish?
An albacore's internal temperature is very high, much higher than ambient air or water temperature, so we quickly bleed the fish and then place them in the shade under a spray of sea water to cool for awhile.Then we put the fish in our ‘brine box,’ a 8’ x 8’ x 8’ insulated fiberglass box that has tubing around the top through which icy water (-2 degrees) sprays down onto the fish until it freezes. We add salt to the water (make brine) so the water will stay liquid at -2 degrees.
We leave a day’s catch under the icy spray in the brine box through the night and get up an hour or so before daybreak the next morning (4 - 4:30 AM in the summer ... aaargh!) to put the fish down into our fish hold, which is at a temperature of approximately -30 degrees. That’s cold! If we’re quick about putting the fish down we have time for a couple of cups of coffee before the sun comes up and we start the engines and flip the hooks and lines into the sea.
Do albacore look like abalone?
We're often asked if albacore and abalone are the same thing. Nope. Abalone live along the shore, clinging to rocks with their muscular feet. Their shells make beautiful jewelry, and they are extremely tasty. Unfortunately, abalone is facing some challenges as more and more are being picked out of the sea Click here for a Wikipedia entry on abalone (with pictures).
If you'd like to know what albacore look like, here are some excellent photos. Warning: the large photo may take a while to load.
Are albacore the same as tuna?
Albacore is one type of tuna. ‘Tuna’ is the common name for a variety of fish in the Scombridae (tuna and mackerel) family. There are several types of tuna in the mackerel family. Below are links to the Regulatory Fishing Encyclopedia lists of market, scientific, common and vernacular names of types of tuna. Click on the Market Name to go to detailed description of the fish.
|Market Name||Common Name|
|chub mackerel||Mackerel, Chub|
|pacific sierra||Mackerel, Spanish|
PS: remember that nutritional and mercury levels of albacore tuna varies a lot with age — choose younger troll-caught fish for highest, sustainable quality.
How can you tell if the tuna in the can is troll-caught?
It's easy! Just look at the nutrition label for the fat content. Troll-caught albacore has much more fat (approx. 5g per 2 oz serving) than the long-lined fish (approx 1g fat per 2 oz serving).
Pelican’s Choice Albacore Nutrition Facts
Original Albacore Serving Size 2 oz/56 gms
Number of Servings: Approx 1.5
|Total Fat||5g (8% DV)|
|Cholesterol||15 mg (5% DV)|
|Sodium*||300 mg (13% DV)|
|Total Carb||0g (0% DV)|
|Fiber||0g (0% DV)|
|Sugars||0g (0% DV)|
|Vit A, Vit C, Calcium||(0% DV)|
What is the difference between trolling and long-lining?
Trolling is the kind of fishing we do. We take 12 hooks, tie them onto 12 lines, and throw them over the side of the boat. Each hook has a jig - some brightly colored material that lures the fish. These hooks are dragged behind the boat at a staggered distance of 4 to 21 fathoms (a fathom = 6 feet). When a fish hits the hook it pulls on the line and a bell on the back deck rings. Before the ring from the bell has faded from our ears, someone (usually Harvey, he's the fastest) is on the back deck pulling up the line. He pulls it in with a powered reel called a pinch puller, then brings the fish aboard by hand. The fish is killed and bled immediately then sent to the front deck to cool under a steady stream of seawater. After it's cooled, it is put into the brine freezer to be frozen down to -2 degrees. The next morning the albacore is moved to the -30 degree fish holds and stays there until the boat is unloaded.
In short, trolling for albacore means that:
Long-lining for albacore is usually done by foreign boats. It works like this: A boat drops one end of a long line into the ocean. The line can be up to 30 miles long. Off this big line are many little lines with hooks attached. The hooks float in waters along the thermocline, sometimes as deep as 300 feet. This is where the big albacore hang out.
Once hooked, the fish's movements attract other fish and sharks in the area. After 12 hours or so, depending on the weather, the boat returns to the beginning of the line and picks it up. Any albacore or by-catch that has been caught is brought on board at this time. Depending on how long the albacore or by-catch has been hooked, it may or may not still be alive when brought on board.
Long-lined albacore tends to be the older, bigger fish. These older fish have lived longer and have accumulated more pollutants in their flesh, and therefore tend to have higher mercury levels than troll-caught fish.
In short, long-lining for albacore means that:
Second, big brand albacore has most likely been cooked twice — once before it goes into the can and again during the canning process. We prefer to cook the albacore only once — when it is in the can — ensuring that its natural oils make it to your salad or sandwich.
How is your albacore different from all the other private labels?
Troll-caught albacore that has been canned in a microcannery will vary from brand to brand because of individual canning techniques and the recipes used. What will be the same (assuming the fish are troll-caught and have been properly cared for) are the health benefits of higher Omega-3 and low mercury. We encourage you to find a troll-caught albacore brand that suits your palate from a company you enjoy doing business with. If you do this you'll be supporting the U.S. fisher families who make up the troll-caught industry and helping to keep our oceans healthy. Our hope, of course, is that you'll try our Pelican's Choice Albacore and like it.
Where can I go for more albacore information?
We think the Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA) website is the best for overall information about albacore. The WFOA is the ALBACORE tuna fishermen’s association.
American Fisheries Society: Scientists studying and making recommendations about fishery issues.
Southwest Fisheries Science Center headquartered in La Jolla, California.
Fishery Department of Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) of the United Nations Fishery Department
National Marine Fisheries (NMFS)
National Ocean Service (NOS)
UC Davis — seafood information
On a totally different note
Did you know that if the weather gets bad enough you can literally walk up the walls of the cabin? Ever wonder how fast can a ten-year-old who had just seen Jaws can inflate his rubber raft when he thinks the boat is sinking (it wasn’t)? How desperate would you have to be before you stole a shower in the Bering Sea? If you are interested in stories of the fishing life (albacore and other fisheries during the past 40 years), let me know and I’ll put some up.
At our table he reached between two people and took a tiny cup of albacore. He started walking briskly away, tipped his head back and popped the albacore into his mouth. In mid-stride he swung around and took long steps back toward us.
“What IS that? he asked, his eyes busily scanning our table, “That’s REALLY GOOD!” It took a while to convince him it really was ‘tuna.’
Nice words —
"You folks have been very responsive to my orders and I have received them promptly.
Keep up the great work."
We fish from dawn to dark, so it’s a long day during the middle of summer, about 16 hours. We fit meals in when we can.We stay out until we have a boatload or need food or fuel. The longest we’ve been out is a little over two months. The summer weather is usually pretty nice, although the occasional storm can come up and bounce us around a bit. I keep trying to get impressive pictures of waves coming over the bow, but it never looks as wet and wild as it feels at the time.