Well, the albies are here and you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines, that is, you have to get on them while they’re here. They don’t always stick around for the whole fall. A big storm can push them off, or an unseasonably cool September can have them beating tail by Columbus Day. Still there have been other years where albies have been a viable target into early November… this is why I say you have to get on them when you know you can. And even if we have a banner year, the following year makes no promises, look at 2018 vs. 2019, 2018 was an all-out year of albie insanity in Rhode Island and the rest of southern New England, 2019 was a much tougher year, many of the popular hotspots only saw one or two days of good fishing, for whatever reason, the bulk of the biomass went to Long Island and we were left to make do with the scraps.
Tunas, as a subspecies, are known for their superb eyesight and this has lead to the belief that false albacore are finicky by nature—this is not the case. When the albies first crash the inshore party here in New England they are very often quite easy to catch. The fish have come inshore to take advantage of the plethora of young of the year baitfish that are exiting local estuaries at the end of the summer and beginning of the fall. They become increasingly selective as they see more and more jigs skipping in front of their faces. So setting a goal of ‘getting on the board early’ is a good idea, because the fish are far more reckless and likely to make a mistake early on.
In The Snot
It’s unfortunate that fishing magazines have made albie fishing look like a fairweather activity where anglers wearing visors and Patagonia shirts flash their chemically-whitened teeth while bathing beauties hang from their shoulders. If you really want to up your chances at having a banner day of chasing albies, pick a snotty day with rain, clouds and choppy seas. Not only do these conditions make it easier to fool any daytime gamefish, but they also seem to get the albies really fired up. Just last year, after several days of trying find albies without any success, I went out on a choppy, cloudy day where wind-driven mist cut through my clothes like a hail of tiny, freezing-cold blow-darts. But I landed right on the albies and they were so fired up that I was getting a hit or hooking up every cast for three solid hours. I had the spot all to myself too, evidently the rest of the chase-crew stayed home because, I guess, they were afraid to get wet.
I have found that you’re much better off keeping your bait in the water than you are running the Statue of Liberty play all day. The guys that only throw to breaking fish are only getting a shot at the tiny of fraction of the fish that can be seen. I learned from Capt. Jack Sprengel many years ago that you can have great success fishing two different speeds for false albacore. He told me that when you’re not seeing breaking fish, you should alternate every few casts, skipping your tin on the surface and then reeling at a more moderate speed, getting the jig to wiggle like a fleeing baitfish, just below the surface. This advice has worked extremely well for me, I would say that I have caught about half of the albies I’ve caught in my life, on a blind cast. My preference is to fish the longest-casting tins I can find that fit into three sizes, 1, 2 and 3 inches. This means I lean heavily on the Hogy Heavy Jigs in the two smallest sizes, Capt. Jack swears by the Shimano Coltsniper Jigs and I have had success with these as well. Classic tins like the Deadly Dick and the Point Jude Po-Jee have been hooking albies for decades and are still getting it done.
The Epoxy Craze
Anyone who’s anyone has caught, at least a few albies on an ‘epoxy style’ jig. The craze began with the, no longer made, Maria Jig and then Hogy took over with their wildly popular line of Epoxy Jigs. These jigs have more than proven that they can rake in the albies and they come in enough colors to make a rainbow jealous. These jigs look very lifelike and feature a mix of lead and resin that is designed to maximize the casting weight while also providing enough surface area to keep it from sinking out of sight when it splashes down without adding much more weight. The result is a downright sexy-looking tin that melds the look of an Epoxy Baitfish Fly with the weight and action of a conventional tin. It’s easy to see why these skyrocketed to fame when they hit the market. Over the past few years, we have seen the advent of ‘Resin Jigs’, these ‘epoxy style’ jigs utilize a tough polymer coating in place of the brittle epoxy, the result is a much more durable incarnation of this style bait. The most popular ones have been the Game On Exo Jigs and the Fat Cow Fat Minnow Jigs and an up and coming version are the Glass Minnows from Savage Gear. All of these baits perform well, catch fish, and won’t shatter if you overshoot and hit a rock.
Put in on Plastic
Chucking tins and epoxy jigs is not the only way to feed your burgeoning case of albie fever. Fast-moving soft plastics will draw a lot of strikes and are often overlooked by those stricken with the affliction. Baits like the 5-inch Savage Sand Eel, Ron-Z’s in the smallest size, or 1-ounce Hogy Pro Tail Paddles will often get blown up when tins are being ignored. It’s funny that these lures are largely ignored while nearly every albie bag on the coast has at least two colors of the insanely popular Albie Snaxon hand at all times. The most popular colors are original amber and white, but all of the colors have their place and will catch fish. These little ‘puppy-dog tails’ are the perfect choice when the albies are feeding on small squid or finger mullet, you can fish them right up on top with a 4/0 Albie Snax or Beast Hook or use a Weighted Beast Hook and fish them deeper. When the fish are ignoring tins, you don’t want to be the guy that doesn’t have plastics.
When They Get Finicky
Most of the time, you will do just fine rigged with a 15- or 20-pound Mono Leaderand a Micro TA Clip, but when the fish get finicky, the first things to try are changing to lighter fluorocarbon leader and tying direct. There are several types of fluoro on the market these days, but the ones we like best made by Seaguar. The Seaguar Premier would be the first choice because it’s softer, thinner and boasts a 42% increase in knot strength! The second choice would be the old, reliable Blue Label stuff, it’s time-tested and we’ve heard zero complaints. The next thing to try is going minuscule; try the 3/8-ounce Hogy Epoxy Jig, try the ½-ounce Hogy Heavy Minnow Jig. Or rig up a Casting Egg and try a Bonito Bunny, or one of Bob Popovic's Pop Fleye patterns in Bay Anchovy or Silverside for slim baits use something like a Mikkelson’s Epoxy Baitfish. Tie the egg to your main line, tie 18- to 24-inches of leader to the other end and tie on the fly of your choice. When you’re ready to cast, hook the fly onto the screw protruding from the casting egg and let it rip. When the egg hits the water, the fly will jar loose and then you can begin a moderate or fast retrieve. This method has saved many days for albie fishermen up and down the coast.
Albie season is a fleeting thing. It’s like summer strawberries or the American shad run, if you drag your feet, you lose and then you have to wait a whole other year! We’ve already told you that they are here, your Instagram has confirmed it 800 times in the last 9 minutes. Do not wait for the first blitz reports to hit the net, instead, be there when it happens. And stand by for forthcoming information about the expanded format of the Saltwater Edge Albie Shootout, it’s about to get crazy out there… don’t miss it. And just in case you were wondering, albie fever is a lot like cowbell, the only remedy is more albies--there really is no cure. Good luck.