Every summer for the last nine years, fishermen from all around the Pacific Northwest have joined forces to help support the Oregon Food Bank and food pantries of Pacific County Washington by competing in tournaments up and down the Oregon & Washington coast. At each of these events, they catch and donate tuna, as well as a cash donation to the Oregon Food Bank once the season wraps up. The Oregon Food Bank is a regional food bank that not only serves Oregon food pantries but Clark County and Southwest Washington as well. Additionally, the tuna is distributed either canned or fresh to needy families in the ports where the events are held.
How it all started…….
The ’I Fish For Food’ Tuna Tournament was born in 2005, when a small group of fishermen decided to share their catch with others. The first year, twenty boats signed up. In a single day, over 100 tuna totaling 2100 pounds was waiting to be canned and donated to the Oregon Food Bank.
Having discovered a way to funnel their passion into giving back to the community, the group officially organized in 2006 as the non-profit ‘Oregon Tuna Classic’ (OTC) and decided to make the tournament an annual event. Each year has been bigger than the year before it. In 2006, they had over 181 teams and over 900 participants who donated enough tuna to produce over 5200 cans and a check for $12,000 which helped provide over 60,000 pounds of food to those in need. In 2007, the event generated over 7300 pounds of tuna and a $25,000 check was presented to the Oregon Food Bank.
In 2008 the events yielded our best catch yet. On November 14, 2008 we presented over 13,000 lbs of canned tuna and a check to the Oregon Food Bank in the amount of $46,000. Given the current economic crisis, the OTC’s donation could not have come at a better time. The Oregon Food Bank and its network supplies over 200,000 food baskets a month in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The OTC’s donation helped the food bank purchase five pounds of food for every dollar donated, equivalent to a contribution weight of over 230,000 pounds of food.
That same year the Oregon Food Bank selected the Oregon Tuna Classic to receive the Stone Soup Award for outstanding leadership and support of issues affecting low income people.
The Oregon Tuna Classic is made up 100% volunteers who donate their time and energy to make these tournaments a reality.
The focus of these tournaments is to feed the hungry but in 2010 The Governor of Oregon recognized the economic impact the tournaments were having on the coastal communities where the events were being held and awarded the Outstanding Oregon Tourism Volunteer Award to the OTC.
Today, after nine seasons, the Oregon Tuna Classic has reached a milestone eclipsing 1 million pounds of food donated to the Oregon Food Bank and food pantries along the Oregon and Washington coast.
There are only a few details left to finalize for the 10th anniversary season and as many of you know I took a two year break from running things but now I’m back in the saddle again and charged up as ever.
This year The Deep Canyon Challenge in Ilwaco WA will be on August 1st & 2nd and the Oregon Tuna Classic will be on August 22nd. & 23rd. in Garibaldi to wrap up the season finale. Each event draws 750-900 participants from Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.
The teams will start rolling into town Thursday then about half of them will spend Friday offshore pre-fishing and scouting out their favorite fishing hole. For those that wish to have a little more competition they can participate in the optional Big Fish Friday side pot. Friday afternoon, at 4:00pm, the Blue Water Girls will be hosting a social that will fill the big tent with people –some engaged in games, (part of the new format) others will partake of the food, drinks and a lot of catching up among friends. Then at 7:00pm the fun will get put on hold briefly while we hold a 30 minute captains meeting before the Blue Water Girls crank things back up. All the Friday fun will come to a close at 9:00pm when the tent gets buttoned up for the evening and participants start heading for their beds to catch a little rest to get them through the next day. The following morning the harbor will come to life in the dark hours of pre-dawn as they get their boats and crew ready before joining the flotilla one boat after another motoring out to the official starting line a mile offshore. Then at 6:00am Saturday morning the Coast Guard will shoot a flare signaling the beginning of the competition. This is where pent up testosterone and caffeine mix together causing throttles to get pushed to the stops when charged up fishermen let things fly. Boats leap out of the water, sending a few of them airborne a couple times, before they quickly get jolted back to the reality of running a boat on the ocean without killing yourself or your crew. A little bruised and hopefully still intact they’ll slow down to a normal cruise speed settling in for the long 50 mile run offshore to the warm blue water.
About the same time the flare sends the competition racing offshore the guys from Northwest Wild Country www.nwwildcountry.com will be doing their own version of going airborne charging up the microphones on the stage inside the big tent. This popular TV and radio show will be broadcast in front of a live audience as Joel Shangle, Bill Herzog and Duane Inglin bring their banter and good fun to the sleepy little town on the coast.
If the ocean is calm and all the teams make it offshore there will be 150-200 people sitting down with their coffees and a fireman’s style breakfast while the crew fills the tent with their own Wild Country style energy. A sporty ocean will change things dramatically as some teams will choose to stay landward pushing the size of the crowd quickly to well over 400 caffeine energized tuna–holics inside the tent. They’re not hard to spot. They’ll be the ones wearing well used Grunden bibs and look like they’ve downed a bottle of energy drink.
If you’re not part of all the action 50 miles offshore there is a scavenger hunt with a nice OTC passport to great deals in nearby shops and businesses. Get that passport stamped by all the participating businesses and you might have a chance at the great prize, worth over $1,000, for the winner of this contest.
Later that day boats will start straggling back into port with their catch hoping they have 5 fat tuna that will send them to the top of the leader board and the podium during the awards ceremonies later that evening.
During all these festivities and fishing you might also notice a couple film crews walking around, climbing on a few boats and in the middle of all the action. This year both OTC events are being filmed for a one hour network special to be aired on Comcast Sportsnet later in the fall and winter. It will be a compilation of fishing action, festivities and documentary of why we do all this. We are proud to have the Emmy award winning crew from Wheeler Films filming and producing the show. You might recognize Bob Wheeler and Danny Kirsic from when they were last out in Garibaldi filming an episode of “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta” during one of the past OTC events.
We are so proud of all the sponsors that have supported the cause and have been an integral part of the success all these years. This year we have a number of new additions to the sponsor list including the Ford Street team as they will be joining us to support the cause and will have a nice display on hand in front of the tent. Harmon Brewing Company of Tacoma will be providing a nice selection of micro brews and we are in the process of securing a hard liquor distiller to add to the mix. Aerial filming will be provided by 3D Robotics with a couple aerial drones capturing a different perspective.
The sponsor list continues to grow as the fever spreads that is the Oregon Tuna Classic giving a little more hope for those less fortunate and in need while also giving an economic jolt of good fortunate to those businesses along the coast.
You don’t have to be on a boat to join all the fun, games or energy with activities geared towards both guys and gals as everyone is welcome to join in on all the Friday games or Saturday festivities. Friday is free for everyone and a dinner ticket is all you need to get in the door Saturday evening.
There will be a few more emails with updates as we get a little closer.
I look forward to seeing everyone soon.
Oregon Tuna Classic