Gearing up for Albies E-mail
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:45

Jon with a Monmouth Beach Albie

Albies are one of the most exciting fish the kayak angler can catch that are relatively accessible. Unlike other tunas, they can be regularly caught from shore launched kayaks. The first time I tangled with them the surf was a bit rough so I chased them up and down the northern NJ beaches and got them from the sand. The first one I caught in Sandy Hook, but the school was racing to the south so I leap frogged in front of them and got the next one in Sea Bright, which was 5 miles south. The third I landed by the wall in Monmouth Beach another mile or so south. That’s where they turned around and raced back north. By this time the swell had decreased quite a bit as the wind had abated. So I launched my kayak at Chokecherry, where I had landed the first one from the surf, and after a while I got into them. That first kayak caught albie was less than 5 pounds but what a blast. I was using a light spin rod loaded with 15 pound braid and a 12 pound fluorocarbon leader.  The fish kicked my butt.  I hadn’t experienced runs like that since my days fishing for long fin albacore on the west coast. I was hooked. So when albies are around I target them first. If they don’t cooperate I try for other species.

Albies are a terrific sport fish but terrible table fare. The reason we pursue them is they’re a blast. Being a tuna they’re supercharged and there isn’t any mistaking when you’ve got one on the end of your line. That’s because it melts away at a sizzling pace. No other fish you’re going to regularly hook off NJ is going to do this. Because they’re an open water fish you don’t have to worry about them breaking you off on structure.  Just be prepared for a sizzling run or two, sometimes more and don’t try to horse them.  Those of us who regularly pursue albies from a kayak prefer light to medium sized spinning tackle.  Albies tend to favor small baits and love rainfish. When they’re picky and they can be you need to match the hatch.  Rainfish are small and best matched with lures less than 2”. Being speedsters longer casts often are necessary to get into fish. Throwing a ½ to ¾ ounce metal on a heavy outfit doesn’t do the trick. I like a minimum of a 7’ rod rated appropriately. I have gone as long as 9’ when they’re racing around and difficult to catch up to. A steelhead rod is terrific. I match the rods with a 2500 spin reel loaded with 10-15 pound braid or a 3500 size reel spooled with 15-20 pound braid. I direct connect using an Alberto knot a leader at least 6’ long. I reinforce the knot with a couple drops of super glue. My standard is 15 pound fluorocarbon but I carry 10 and 8 in case they’re picky.

albie lure selection

Lures top row left top to bottom: 1/2 & 3/4 oz. Crippled Herring, Yamashita, Deadly Dick, Stingsilver, Ava 007

Right row top to bottom: 5/8 oz. Spro jig, 3" Wildeye, 2.5" Lunker City Grub on 3/8 oz. jighead, 3/4 oz. Crocodile, White finesse on jighead

I have caught my share of albies trolling when they’re in the vicinity. Most of my kayak caught fly rod albies have been trolling. The fish busting on the surface are the typical tip of the iceberg. So there are many more fish you can’t see. However if you can place an offering in the midst of breaking fish it is often the best way to hook up. The easiest way to do this is to have an outfit set up that’s ready to go that can cover some distance. Being that they aren’t near any structure break offs aren’t an issue. So you can use relatively light line. The lighter the line the greater your casting distances. If you’re fishing a locale where schoolie blue fin tuna are a possibility (Rhode Island) the heavier outfit gives you a better chance with them.

I like to have two outfits ready to go; this way if I have a problem with one I don’t have to re-rig in the heat of hot fishing. I just grab the other outfit. I often take a fly outfit with me too. Here’s where I don’t go light. I prefer a 10 wt. with a strong 9 being my second choice. Albies have a reputation for breaking 9s. In fact Harker’s Island has a nickname. The place where 9s go to break.

As for lure choices at times they’ll hit almost anything; plugs, poppers, plastics and such. I usually use two lure types if I’m casting; metals or a jighead with plastic. If I need to cast far metal is my first choice. That’s because nothing is going to cast as far and sometimes it’s going to take a very long cast to reach a fast racing school. Metal lures, like all lures, come in a wide array of models. Essentially you need some narrow metals like Ava and diamond jigs, stingsilvers, and such for when they’re on sand eels, bay anchovies or spearing. Vary the sizes from less than a ½ ounce to as heavy as your outfit can handle. A nice tweener and one of our favorites is the Crippled Herring. You’re also going to need some wider bodied metals for when they’re on peanut bunker or other wide baits. Keep some Crocs, Kastmasters or Hopkins type lures in the arsenal too. The Bomber slab spoon is a great choice. It’s intended for freshwater but casts like a rocket. Just replace the hooks with something up to the task. Soft plastics on a jighead are my second choice. When they’re on rain bait I find a ¼ to 3/8 ounce head with a Lunker City 2.5” grub a hot ticket. When they’re on spearing we tend to go to longer paddle tails and flukes in white or silver patterns. A bone Jumpin’ Minnow can be deadly as can a 4.5” Slug-go. The Minnow casts great by the way. It’s a walk the dog type lure but I just reel it fast on the surface.

The technique is fairly simple. If you can cast into breaking fish do so. This is where a long rod helps a lot. It saves on paddling or pedaling. Most often we reel as fast as we can but trolled lures and flies aren’t fast and they catch their share of albies. There are times when they’ll take a Slug-go floating on the surface. So don’t hesitate to mix it up.

Albie fishing in a group is a great way to enjoy this fishing. More anglers mean better water coverage that result in more intel.

 

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