False Albacore from the Kayak E-mail
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 16:29

It is hard to think of a pelagic species like false albacore as a kayak fishing friendly fish.  Most members of the tuna family are usually found offshore in blue water and as far as targeting them in kayak, the odds are not favorable. The false albacore, also know as albies, little tunny and falsies are a fish that with the right game plan and a bit of research can be targeted off the kayak and in some cases a kayak can even out fish the power boaters.  Tunoids are some of the strongest fish pound for pound you will encounter and are a perfect fly and light tackle quarry. When I say research, I am referring to doing your homework and finding the areas where the fish are being caught. For the most part this speed demons move around a lot but do seem to hit certain areas on a pretty regular basis and these are where you should focus your pursuit of them. I have fished for them from Rhode Island to North Carolina but their range goes all the way to Florida and beyond.

Joey with an Albie at Montauk

In my area of the Northeast they start to appear by late August and will hang around until the water temps start cooling off.  They’re a warm water pelagic species and like the warmest water of the season. They usually stick around until sometime in mid to late October.  Some of the best places for these fantastic gamefish are Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Montauk, Rhode Island breach ways, Harker’s Island and all of the NJ and NY ocean coastline – especially near inlets and where 2 bodies of water meet.

close up a nice albie on the fly

When targeting these fish you need to make a conscious effort to go after them and this means reading the reports and seeing if and where they have shown near you or where you are willing to travel to. Since albies are an ocean fish you will most likely have to make a surf launch to get to them and you generally you’ll want to be sure you’ve spotted them before you launch. One of the most important tools you can have is a good pair of binoculars.  Albies for the most part will not crash bait in the surf line like bass and blues, they usually will stay out at least a 100 yards or more so the binoculars will be a asset.  If the action is a mile out or so which is very common you’re not going to be able to differentiate them from bass or blues without optics. What we are looking for is bird action following the schools around but we want to try to distinguish a school of albies from say a bunch of cocktail blues.  A sure way to know is to look for the little tuna’s coming out of the water as they do so often when feeding, but sometimes from the beach, even with binoculars it is hard to see. The next best way to determine if you’re looking at a school of albies is to see how the birds are moving. Albies and almost all tuna have to keep moving rapidly and they will hit and slash through a school of baitfish and move off it and circle back into it again.  The birds will follow the albies and they’ll be moving very quickly and then only start crashing when the albies hit the school again. This flying pattern is very different from how birds react to a school of bass or blues attacking baitfish.  With those species the birds hover over the school in one spot as the bass these fishes tend to stay put and feed.  Once you are able to identify this bird pattern you will have a better chance of finding schools of albies as opposed to other fish.  One thing I have noticed over the years is that, unlike bass and blues, I have never caught albies in any sort of stained or off-colored water.

 

Once you are in an area where there are albies and you see surface and bird activity you have to make a choice – chase the schools or hope the fish come to you? A lot depends on how good the action is. I have spent all day chasing the schools and every time it would seem that I would get into the action and the school would move – it’s very frustrating!  Usually this means there are not a lot of albies in the schools or not a lot of baitfish. In this case, I will get into an area where they have surfaced and I wait for them to come to me.  I mentioned earlier they usually circle around and will come back to a school of bait again and again. If the fish are thick when they come they stay up for a while, then by all means chase and chase hard.  It is very exciting to move onto a feeding school and toss an offering into the action. Here is where I think you might have an edge with the kayak, I have fished for them on motorboats and I can never remember getting as close as I can with kayak.  I believe the engine noise is the culprit and this is why you see many top charter boat captain turn their engine off as they approach the school. Another deadly tactic is to troll for them especially if you can’t seem to catch up to the breaking schools; this is particularly effective with a fly rod. I have caught many an albie this way – not as fun as casting to them but the blistering run is still the same.  Another thing I try to do is read the movement of the schools so I head them off as best as I can. Remember, if you see a fish come up and crash, that fish will be 20 yards away by the time you cast there.

Montauk albie

Another challenge these fish posses is they can be finicky.  This partly due to their great  eyesight.  This is a match the hatch game. They seem to focus on smaller forage like rain bait so you are not going to toss a 6’ popper into them and expect success.  I tend to go small and for my money silver or white are the best colors.  My 2 favorite lures are the ½ and  ¾ oz. crippled herring in silver or a white 4” finesse with a ½ oz. jig head.  With the fly rod I like a small chartreuse over white surf candy fly. Sometimes the albies can be mixed in schools with other fish like bass and blues, I find if I want to increase my odds of getting albies I use a tin or metal lure and reel as fast I can.  Albies are speedsters and I find the bass and blues will not be able to catch up but the tuna will.  One experience really hammers home how selective these fish can be.  I was fishing for them and all day and they wouldn’t touch my lures.  I had my standard 15lbs. fluorocarbon leader on.  I put on a 12’ section of 8lbs. and immediately started hooking up and had continuous action from that point on. I would start out with 20 lbs. leader and then go lighter if you are not hooking up when you cast into a group.  Going light will cause some break offs when the fish run away from you as their rocket tails hit your line.

kayak fishing for albies

False albacore are a great game fish that many people pay guides $500 a day or more to fish for.  With a bit of planning you can do just as well with them. You’ll have put a little effort into it.  Last year I went to Montauk and stayed there for 6 days and really never had conditions any day suitable for launching the kayak.  Please remember that you must use caution and in your quest for these fish. Also, it is important to do your best to get them released unharmed.  Make sure when you release them you throw them back into the water head first (grabbing them by the tail).  This gets the water going back through gills and them moving and will insure they swim away.

Once you catch an albie on the kayak you will be addicted to their speed, power and beauty forever.

 

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