Newport’s fleet of jig fishermen are hooking into albacore tuna, finally bringing to the docks a sizable number of warmwater fish whose arrival is keenly awaited by customers looking to grill fresh and can for winter.
Mark Whittier, captain of the 51-foot schooner Kathleen, had five tons of fish aboard on Tuesday, following a 13-day trip. Price at the plant for frozen fish is around $3,400 a ton. Fish have been averaging around 12 pounds.
“The last three days we caught over 100, which is good for us,” Whittier said. “Other boats, 300 a day to 50 a day.”
The tuna are following bands of warm water that push closer to shore during midsummer to early fall. The fishing is starting to pick up after some fairly spotty returns and long chases that took boats 100 to 500 miles from shore.
“The water has warmed up, and the fish are coming in,” said the Kathleen’s deckhand Demetrious Dinwoodie. “They’re about 50 miles out.”
Tuna sales are starting to pick up at the Chelsea Rose Seafoods Barge on Dock 7, where the albacore market for $4 per pound in the round. Fresh and flash frozen are both available, fishmonger Matthew Scurlock said.
Albacore, long a local favorite, has gained wider popularity recently as diet trends focus on beneficial fatty acids like omega-3, in which tuna are rich.
“People love albacore,” Whittier said. “It’s good for the body.”