One of the most anticipated parts of the fishing season here in the northeast is the arrival of the false albacore. Usually beginning in mid August and ending as late as the November, the run of false albacore here on Cape Cod really takes its tole on the community. From calling out “sick” from work, too forgetting to pick your kids up from their soccer practice, anglers chasing these little tunny develop serious cases of “albie fever”. In this article we cover all aspects of albie fishing, from outfits and tackle, too retrieves and techniques, we will provide you with everything you need to know to maximize your chances of connecting with these funny fish!
When it comes to albie fishing, it’s in your best interest to keep your gear on the lighter side. A lot of the time you are throwing light lures on light braided lines and leaders, so having an outfit to match these are key. If you are fishing from either a boat or kayak, its best to have a fast action rod between 7-8 ft rated for lures from 3/8-1.25oz. This style of rod really allows you to get maximum casting distance with these lighter albie lures. As for reels go, a reel in the 4000-5000 size class is pretty much all you need. Look for something with a faster gear ratio to accompany the fast retrieves you will be incorporating when skipping jigs on the surface. Now for the shore anglers, the outfit changes a little bit. A lot of the time when shore fishing for false albacore, the fish may not be right in front of you so casting distance becomes the name of the game. A longer rod, such as a 8-9ft, will give you that extra casting distance you need to reach fish. You may be throwing jigs and metals up to 20z from shore, so make sure to have a rod that can handle that. A 6000 size class reel will give you plenty of line capacity from the beach. For further reference, Capt. Mike talks about his go to albie outfits in the video below.
Terminal Tackle & Rigging
Albies are notorious for their incredible eyesight and being picky at times, so terminal tackle and rigging techniques are SUPER important. When fishing an epoxy or metal jig, you can go one of two directions regarding hooks. The first option is fishing them standard with the treble hook that comes stock on most Hogy Epoxy Jigs and Hogy metals. Another option is opting for an inline single hook. These inline single hooks are great for when the action is hot and heavy and your looking to release fish as quick as possible to get back in action. VMC makes both great in-line single and treble hooks. As I stated earlier, albies have incredible eye sight so limiting the amount terminal tackle on your presentation is key. I always tie direct to my lures, using a loop knot of some sort. The loop knot is important because it doesn’t hinder the action of the lure like a traditional cinch knot may. As for braided line and leader, I like 20lb braid because of the small diameter which allows me to really get some distance on my cast with these light lures. 15-20lb fluorocarbon leader is the standard for me when albie fishing, but when fish are super finicky I’m known to drop down to as low as 10-12lb fluoro. Long leaders play an important role here, as they eliminate the braid from being seen by the fish. I personally like a 6ft+ long leader. For further information regarding terminal tackle and rigging, Capt. Mike walks through his techniques in the video below.
When it comes down to lure choices for false albacore, I primarily have 4 different lure categories: Epoxy Jigs, metals, soft baits, and plugs.
The Hogy Epoxy Jig is arguably the standard when it comes to albie fishing. The natural presentation, accompanied with the casting distance make it a no brainer when selecting an albie lure. I usually find myself using the 3/8oz and 7/8oz sizes the most, but depending on conditions I’m not afraid to go up or down in weight. My color choice will depend on the forage the albies are feeding on, a natural presentation like the silverside color is great when fish are finicky, but using an attracter color like pink or albie crack is a great way to attract albies too.
Metals shine when casting distance is a big factor. The compact design of the Hogy Heavy Minnow Jig as well as Hogy Peanut Bunker Jigs, make for an extremely long casting lure. Metals are ideal when you find yourself needing to cut through the wind to reach breaking fish. Hogy metals are also very realistic and match many species of bait fish here in the North East.
Jigs and metals aren’t the only lure choice when targeting false albacore. Soft baits can work great for albies too. A classic soft bait for albie fishing is the 7″ Hogy Original, especially the amber color for imitating squid. Over the years though I have really been dialed in on using the Hogy Slowtail for false albacore. The small presentation of the 3.5″ model, accompanied with the subtle kicking motion of the twin tails has been deadly when fish are finicky. Another great soft bait choice would be the 1oz Hogy Protail Paddle, which is a great small peanut bunker imitation.
The last lure option when targeting false albacore is plugs. I know what you’re thinking, plugs for albies? A matter effect, plugs can be extremely effective when albie fishing. They offer a large presentation, and are great for matching the profile of larger bait fish. They are also super effective when fish are scattered. By blind casting a plug, such as the 1.5oz Hogy Slider, around when albies are scattered in the area, you present a larger target for albies to see. Another plug option would be the 3/4oz Hogy Popper, this is a great option for when the fish are really fired up and feeding on top. The Hogy Popper can also be used to blind cast in an area where you know albies are lurking. For more information regarding fishing plugs for albies, refer to the videos below.
3 Basic Retrieves
Your retrieve plays a big role when targeting albies. On some days they only want a certain retrieve, and will often ignore anything else. These retrieves are for when you’re fishing either an Epoxy jig or a metal.
Skippy Retrieve: The fastest of all the retrieves. Causes the bait to skip across the surface, imitating a large fleeing baitfish.
How-To & Tips: Cast out and reel in fast, collecting slack while keeping the rod tip up to work the lure across the surface. Great in that it’s a lighter lure rather than a lead based jig. Its’ lightness allows for a skipping action. Works particularly well in calm water.
When To Use: When the fish are scattered and it’s a hard to get an albie to commit. Causing a commotion with the lure with entice the fish and draw attention to the lure. Best used in calm water.
Medium Retrieve: Despite its name, the medium retrieve for the Epoxy Jig is on the faster side of the spectrum but it is the most versatile retrieve of the three.
How-To & Tips: Cast out and retrieve with the rod in a horizontal position above the water. Impart some reel tip action while slowing down and speeding up your reel speed. Adding pauses to your technique can illicit a reaction strike.
When To Use: This retrieve is Capt. Mike’s bread and butter. He uses it 95% of the time because it can be altered between fast and slow speeds and it covers a lot of ground. It’s a great go-to technique.
Slow & Low Retrieve: This technique is best used when the hot and heavy action dissipates, but you think some feeding fish might still be in the area.
How-To & Tips: Cast out, collect the slack and let the lure sink. As you begin to real, twitch the rod tip and let the lure flutter down into the water column. This continuous pattern imitates a wounded baitfish that is trying to make its way out of the feeding chaos. Reel very slow and lazily.
When To Use: When the feed has just ended but you know there are still fish around. It’s a last ditch effort to replicate an injured baitfish in hopes of enticing a lingering albie in the area.
Albie Fishing Techniques
When albie fishing from a boat, there are a few techniques that I like to impart to maximize my chances of catching fish, as well as keeping anglers around me happy! The epic albie blitzes that are a common occurrence really get everyones blood pumping! But by racing over to the fish as fast as you can, you can often spook them with the rpm changes from your motor. I prefer to use the “Walk and Gun” technique, something I also use when targeting bluefin tuna. Instead of racing over to a feed, I’ll slowly point myself in the direction of breaking fish, and let myself drift over there. I also like to set my boat up in the general area albies are feeding. False albacore often develop a pattern to their feeding, so if you see them blitzing in a certain area it might be a good idea to set up there because they are likely to come back. Blind casting in this situation is extremely effective, as you have an idea of where the albies are. For more information on the techniques I use when albie fishing, refer to the videos below.