Food & Drink

SLO County couple catches, cans wild albacore

Wild, line-caught albacore from the fishing vessel Capriccio is sold at select local markets.
Wild, line-caught albacore from the fishing vessel Capriccio is sold at select local markets.

By the end of June, Wayne Moody will have pulled up anchor on the fishing vessel Capriccio and motored out of her home port of Morro Bay. For the next four or five months, he’ll be fishing off the coast of the Pacific Northwest for wild, line-caught premium albacore.

Some of that catch is will be canned and labeled specifically for the F/V Capriccio’s private label, which is available at select Central Coast locations. You can enjoy both plain and smoked fish, and be confident that the albacore has been sustainably caught and handled with care.

The Capriccio and Moody names might be familiar to longtime patrons of the Old Custom House in Avila Beach. For 28 years, Wayne and his wife, Diane Moody, fished together to supply the restaurant with line-caught salmon, and their names were proudly noted on the menu.

The erratic vagaries of the salmon industry steered the Moodys over to strictly albacore fishing about 10 years ago. The couple fished together for another five years until Diane landed her dream job as a teacher’s aide working with special needs students in Oceano. Though she doesn’t fish from the boat anymore, she still harbors a great love for the Capriccio.

When the Moodys were newlyweds in 1977, neither had a commercial fishing background. Wayne had done some diving for sea urchins and abalone, but hadn’t ventured into the open sea.

Nonetheless, “The first thing he said after we got married was ‘I’d really like to build a boat,’ ” Diane Moody recalled.

The couple wasted no time unfurling that dream. They bought a boat hull and began construction on the 53-foot craft, doing much of the labor themselves and with the help of Diane’s father, an expert woodworker.

In June 1979, the Capriccio took her maiden voyage. Among her appointments were a beautiful teak interior, state-of-the-art electronic radar and communications equipment and a holding area with the capacity to store 16 tons of fish.

She still boasts all that, but the one thing the Capriccio has never had is a fishing net. “We’ve always done hook-and-line,” Wayne Moody said. “It’s all caught one at a time.”

For albacore fishing, he puts out 10 lines set with artificial jig lures — five on each side of the boat. The shortest lines go out about 25 feet, the longest up to 110 feet.

After hooking an albacore and reeling it in, Wayne removes the hook and sends the fish down a chute on the side of the boat. That drops the catch into the hold where a cold, briny slurry keeps the fish frozen at 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

When he’s got a full haul, Wayne offloads the albacore at Chuck’s Seafood, a custom cannery in Charleston, Oregon. He’s been working with this cannery for years, in part because of their attentive, small-scale canning approach.

Most canneries precook the fish before canning it and then have to add oil, broth or water to restore moisture. At Chuck’s, the albacore is hand cut, or, loined, hand-packed directly into the can and pressure cooked.

For the smoked flavor, the fish get a light smoking first and have a bit of olive oil added, but the majority of cooking is still done in the can.

“That’s what really makes it special because it keeps all the albacore’s healthy oils,” Wayne said. “You usually want to pour off the liquid in canned fish, but don’t pour anything off of ours — that’s where a lot of the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids are.”

After he’s home from the fishing season, Wayne drives back up to Chuck’s with a cargo trailer to bring the canned albacore back to the Moodys’ home in Huasna Valley.

“From the time they were caught, these fish have only been handled by me or the cannery,” Wayne said. Diane noted that she and Wayne also do all the labeling, shipping and deliveries themselves, “so we handle every can.”

That’s about as local an approach as you can land with an ocean-going product, so give it try. You’ll be hooked.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

F/V Capriccio Wild-Caught Premium Albacore Tuna

eatalbacore.com

Purchase direct or at retail locations listed on the website, such as SLO Natural Foods Coop and Crushed Grape in San Luis Obispo, Harvest Natural Foods in Atascadero, California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach, and Tognazzini’s Dockside in Morro Bay.

Available in canned sizes: Original (plain) flavor 7.75 ounces or four pounds for restaurants, smoked flavor 6.75 ounce cans. Several recipes listed on the eatalbacore.com website.

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