Albie Fishing Is Fun They Said
It is the time of year folks come into the shop and it's written all over their long faces. "What do I have to do to catch one of these damn albies?" Some albieless stretches can be particularly harsh. The past few seasons have paled in comparison to the banner years in recent memory. This year has brought lots of wind and swell and an unconscionable amount of bait making the albie fishing tough.
We are not talking about albies busting on sunny days with a light SW breeze. If the bite is tough in those conditions consider dialing down to 12lb or so and lengthening your fluorocarbon leader and giving the school plenty of room. We are talking about scattered feeds, a lack of surface activity and windy conditions. That's when albie fishing gets frustrating.
Not All Bait Is Created Equal
Albies can seem fussy due to the abundant bait and the changing menu. It's likely that as the fall progresses there are even more menu options as the peanuts it seems just just keep on coming with each moon tide.
It's important to remember that not all bait is created equal and that some baits school more tightly than others. Bay anchovies and peanut bunker stay in tight formation whereas silversides and sand eels and "lord knows what else" swim in loose schools. This makes it difficult to stay on top of the feed. Tight schools focus the feed and make the albies easier to locate.
Albies keyed on silversides can seem especially tough. Silversides are an abundant bait through out the fall, and they swim in loose schools deeper in the water column and further from shore than the peanuts. Silverside schools are much harder to discern than the rusty patches created by bay anchovies and the surface dimpling migration of peanut bunker. "Low and slow" retrieves of realistic epoxy jigsand soft plastics like Albie Snax and the smaller Hogy Slow Tails are effective when albies are keyed on the more diffuse baits.
Dealing With Frustration
I've had my share of frustration so far this season, so I'll share my personal experience and some of the thought process from my last four trips as we are in this together!
Albie Trip One:
One was a boat trip with windy and bumpy conditions making the fly rod a near impossibility. We had great drifts and lots of opportunities, but the albies were scattered. You might see half a dozen splashes within 60 feet of the boat, but there was no concentration of feeding activity. It was a tough go for the fleet. I only recall one hook up among the nearly dozen boats.
It was when we scanned to the horizon down tide did we see a concentration of bird activity suggesting a more concentrated bait ball. While it was still tough, they stayed up longer, and my buddy got two nice sized albies.
Albie Trip Two:
My next two outings were wade trips to the same local hot spot with deep water close to shore. When I walked from the truck just after first light, I felt like the odds were in my favor with an incoming tide and an onshore breeze. When there was enough light, I could see the massive schools of peanuts at my feet. "Find the bait. Find the fish" I thought. With no fish showing I covered the water and mixed my retrieves. I threw the Peanut Bunker Jig and then various bright Hogy Epoxies the to imitate the predominant bait. A fishless 45 minutes or so of blind casting and another angler shared that "It was nutty yesterday afternoon, but the only guy I saw hooking up was burning one of those small bone SP Minnows" I thought "Ok, I'll go to work and come back for the drop."
Albie Trip Three:
I got back there later in the dropping tide than I had hoped, but the peanut bunker were still thick, and there were some silversides as well; but again there was an utter lack of surface feeding. I optimistically threw the bone Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow to no avail. Next up the Albie Snax as it has been my "slump buster" for both bass and albies. I think the key to their effectiveness is the resemblance to a squid another abundant bait of fall. And I don't see how an albie could pass up a squid that may also be feeding in the same bait ball. I fished it patiently "low and slow"
It was disappointing the only fish I saw in the hour before sunset busted five feet below me tight to the bulkhead I was fishing from. 0-3!
Albie Trip Four:
My last go was a boat trip with a good buddy from Jersey. Big swell. Small boat. Small craft advisory anticipated that afternoon. We went anyway. "If you don't go you won't know" was our attitude. We cruised a few hot spots only saw some seemingly disinterested gulls and terns. We continued our bumpy ride in the direction of the albie reports from earlier in the week and agreed on a turn around point because the ride home was only getting more unpleasant.
We scanned and cruised and just short of our "screw it let's get lunch" turnaround point we found some small pods busting and some petrals that the Jersey boys call "tuna chicks" appeared out of nowhere. These were all good signs. The action was steady enough to have us repeat the drift multiple times. I wondered "Why here?" it didn't look much different than the rest of the beaches in South County. So I checked it out on Navionics and...
This stumbling block for the bait was enough to concentrate the feed, create a point of attack and allowed us both the double up on both fly and spin. One of the areas top guides commented about the same bumpy morning that "It was tough. I checked all of my spots and then covered a lot of water in a zigzag pattern and couldn't find them"
Albies can be frustrating even for the top guides who's bag of tricks and list of spots are way deeper and far longer than the rest of us. This tortured four trip albie stretch is par for the course this season it seems. There are fish around and abundant bait but you probably need to experiment more, cover more water and put more time in blind casting while covering the water column in likely spots.
Tight lines to you!!
I am curious what was worked for you when albies are tough? Please share in the comments.