The first step in trolling for Albacore tuna is locating productive water. Ideal water temperature for albacore is 59-62 degrees. However they can be found in water as low as 57 degrees in the Pacific Northwest. Sea Surface Temperature charts (SST’s) from services such as Terrafin.com can provide this data. Albacore generally surface on or around a temperature break, or up-welling. That’s where cool deep water surfaces and hits warmer surface water causing a plankton bloom that attracts bait fish normally near offshore canyons. These plankton blooms can be located on the same Terrafin service by using a Chlorophyll Chart. The chlorophyll chart will show you where the green near shore water turns to the clean ocean blue water. It’s on these edges were the water turns from green to blue that also are within the favorable temperature range that you will have the best success in locating albacore.
Once you’re on productive water trolling a spread of jigs in various colors is the key to locating tuna.
Trolling speed is 7-10MPH depending on the sea state and how your lures are riding in the water. They need to stay on the surface; lures hopping out of the water are hard for the tuna to see so adjust your speed accordingly.
Set them up to troll in a V or W pattern. The can be run anywhere from 20-60ft behind the boat. I like to keep mine in close to each other, so if one is set at 35 ft behind the boat they are all set out within a range of 20 ft of each other. This makes multiple hookups much more likely. Try to set the jigs in clean water within the boats trolling lanes that form on the inside edges of the boat wake or on the outside of the boat wake in the clean water. This makes much easier for the tuna to locate your lures. Many anglers use a set of outriggers which allows several lures to run on the outside of the boats wake.
For NW albacore rods a Shimano TLC-M66MHA 6’6“Medium Heavy rod works great paired with a Shimano Torium 30 size reel. We load these reels with 65lb super braid. The braid extends how long you can keep trolling when hooked up to the first tuna. The longer you can stay on the troll the more opportunity to hookup a second or third or…several tuna at once. So when the first reels goes off keep trolling until your just about out of line , that’s almost 550 yards or until you have several more fish on the hooked up on the same troll. This usually equals out to a 10-15 count before stopping the boat. Just remember to give the first rod to the new guy as it’s got the 500 yards to reel back in!
If trolling is just being used to locate schools of tuna to transition into live bait fishing or Butterfly jigging then it might be better to stop closer to the school and deploy the gear to stay on the school of fish. In this case stopping after the first fish can work well.
Some of the top producing lures for tuna trolling are tuna clones, tuna feathers, cedar plugs, jet heads, tuna peanuts just to name a few. Bright colors like the Mexican flag orzucchini seem to work better on bright days and dark colors like purple and black on overcast days. Having a good selection of both is key to finding fish while trolling.
Always keep an eye peeled while tolling for birds, jumping tuna or tuna boiling on top of the water. These will indicate you’re in the right location. I also watch the sonar why your normally trolling is water that’s 2000-6000ft.deep you can still pickup bait under the surface indicating tuna will be there feeding.
I also like to run a teaser tied to the rear boat cleat. The teaser dives and makes lots of noise and will help raise fish from down deep up to your trolling pattern. There normally run in front of the lures and have rattles and mirrors to draw in tuna.