• Published:September 5, 2017
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False albacore, little tunny, fat Alberts...

Whatever you call them, this highly prized game fish is always a welcomed sight during the autumn months.
Roving packs of the fork-tailed speedsters cruise the surf line and nearshore waters from the Carolinas to the Northeast coast, providing plenty of drag-screaming opportunity for light tackle and fly anglers.

“The first obvious sign of albies is visual, watching them break water, rainbowing out and jumping on bait schools,” said Tom Lynch, pro photographer and avid angler based in Bay Head, New Jersey. “Other signs this fish are present are when you see small terns diving and moving quickly. Terns chase the small rain bait (bay anchovies) and spearing that the tunny feed on. Also, on calm, flat days, look for a “pizza pan” swirling boil on the surface to give away their presence.”

To target false albacore, it’s a bit of a run-and-gun approach, and your success relies on a lot of luck. You really need to be at the right place at the right time. “To start, you want to get up ahead of the direction the fish are moving, then cut the engines and wait for them to come to you,” said Lynch. “My good friend Bob Popovics told me that albies will come in and beat up the bait schools, then they will leave. But don’t go chase them down, wait for the bait school to reform and ball up again and most every time that school of albacore will come back to it to feed again.”

"To start, you want to get up ahead of the direction the fish are moving, then cut the engines and wait for them to come to you."
-- Tom Lynch
Regarding tackle and technique, understand that little tunny has superior eyesight, and when casting to them, avoid any terminal tackle such as swivels and snaps. Spin-casters will want to fish with a 7-foot medium-fast action rod rated for 15- to 25-pound tackle and match it with a 4000 to 5000 class reel.

For the main running line, most false albacore hunters use 20-pound braided line or 12-pound monofilament. From there they’ll tie on a 36-inch section of 14- to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader via a uni-to-uni knot connection. Tie the leader directly to the lure directly using an improved clinch knot. This streamline presentation works well, but choosing which lure to use depends on the conditions and predominant bait.

Tried-and-true albie lures usually revolve around slim metal lures such as 2.5- to 4-inch Deadly Dicks, Ava 007 diamond jigs, Williamson Gomulka jigs, or Jetty Ghosts when sand eels, rain fish or spearing are the primary bait around. All of these flashy jigs have erratic swimming motion that will get the attention of a hunting albie. When peanut bunker are prevalent, a 1-ounce Crippled Herring jig will do the deed. Some of the most popular colors are straight silver combined with green or pink.

Cast the lure toward the school of bait and crank it in as fast as you can possibly reel. Albies need to be tricked into a strike before they figure out what’s going on. “I will usually cast to the edges of a bait school as you can pull the tunny from out underneath the school to attack a lure that looks like it’s a lone, lost fish away from the school,” said Lynch.

One of the more odd offerings used to trick up a finicky little tunny is a weighted wooden casting egg with a 24-inch section of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader tied to a small soft plastic bait like a 4-inch Fin-S Fish rigged with a 2/0 octopus style hook. The egg is cast out and popped on the surface like a top-water popper as the bait below it flails and twitches like a crippled baitfish.

Fly-casters follow a similar pattern when it comes to finding the schools of albies but as Capt. Ted Williams in Montauk, New York knows, your success depends on the presentation. “If we don’t see albacore, then we will blind cast an area where they are commonly found, letting the fly sink a bit with quick, long strips back to the boat. You have to keep that fly moving fast,” he says.

Little tunny will often key in on small baits like sand eels and fishing with streamline flies can actually out-perform plugs. Some of Williams’ favorite albacore flies include the Albie Whore, Surf Candy and Clouser minnow patterns, mainly in white, pink or chartreuse or a combination of all three colors fished on a 9- or 10-weight rod. “When the albie takes the fly, give a short quick strip set then let go of the line and let the fish make his run as it is going to sizzle line off that reel into the backing. Start reeling when the stops running and be prepared to let him make two or three good dumps of the spool before you gain line on him,” Williams said.

Because of their speed and powerful runs on both light tackle and on the long rod, false albacore are the perfect target for fly and light tackle.