I love fall in the Northeast! The temperature drops, the humidity clears, and the landscape changes from dull green to beautiful confetti of red, orange, and yellow. But most importantly, football is here, above and below the waves! Just listen as the drums and trumpets wail the familiar tune. It must be Sunday night. But for those who manage to tear themselves away from the television, football season means something else to anglers. Along with the cooler temperatures, the water clears and loads of baitfish begin their mass exodus from the bays to the river. The bait goes away and the big fish come in. Many species come to feed, but one, in particular, gets the heart pumping, the false albacore – otherwise known as sea balls. Like I said, football season is back! There are no drums or trumpets on the beach, just the sweet melody of the crawling scream.
In the Northeast, the last week of August is when the first albia usually appears. Come September and October, expect them to be everywhere. This year, they are right on time! These fast runners, along with bonito, really know how to pull some butt and are the pinnacle of fall fishing! And in flight, it’s even more heart-pounding. But don’t think it will be easy; false albacore can be a real challenge to catch. I will show you some of the ways I have failed and succeeded in catching these amazing fish!
Find the bait and match the cover.
Albie fishing is usually very visual. If you can find the birds and live baitfish, there’s a good chance there are albies under them this time of year. Easier said than done in most cases. But at this point, fly fishermen finally have the upper hand. Typically, albies are hooked on extremely small bait that spinners have a hard time matching. Epoxy powders or small soft plastics can do the job for the spin guys, but sometimes they’re a hair’s breadth for the often snobbish and cranky albites. Close ups, rubber clams, surf candy and Albie Whores in a variety of colors are the favorite flies to fool these heady fish.
I would suggest worrying more about the cast and presentation than the flies in the world of albia. Anywhere from an 8-10Wt will work for inshore albino. A weight of 10 is preferred to help kick the wind while providing some lifting power to complete the tonneau turns that occur on the side of the boat. Where the flight guys have a disadvantage is speed and distance. Everything is fast paced in albie hunting. They appear randomly for a split second and then disappear. Make the most of every opportunity and be ready. The spin angler can cast a cast in seconds. Fly fishermen do not have this luxury. Keep the line off the spool in a neat manner and be ready to go in a moment.
Now after watching Youtube and Instagram, I’m sure everyone is thinking they’re going to go out and find albinos crashing in the surf or running everywhere. Add in the amount of bait being washed overboard and you’d think it should be a hit. The reality is that more often than not this is not the case. What do you do when the action slows down? Look for alternative data. Most of the albies I’ve ever landed have come from blind casting to a single suspicious looking bird. They tend to fly in a specific flight path following fish food. Otherwise, watch for bait and slicks from the chaos below. I can’t stress enough how a shimmer in the water can tell what’s going on down deep. The oily liquid you leave behind is one of the best ways to save a day when albinos are shy and don’t show themselves.
Be the fish, be the fish! Predict their moves!
This is where I personally confuse almost religiously. I finally found the fish and it’s an all-out hit. The engine starts and it’s full throttle on the fish for what I think will be a safe catch. A cast in and nothing. I look back at the threshold and there they are leaving where I was just now. Curses ensue followed by “how does this happen every time!”
The gun-running method of chasing albites can certainly be effective at times. But I promise you, you’ll be more successful in the moment, you’ll take a step back, see which way the fish are moving and just get ahead of them. Bait and albinos are very shy. The minute a boat picks up steam, they are usually cut off and gone. If you’re on the east coast, it happens even faster as a fleet of boats quickly sweeps through the party. Get away from other boats like the albites do and you will be 100% more successful.
And finally, as my good friend Joe Diorio always says, “NO ENGINE!” This is probably the main reason, motoring moves the fish quickly. They not only see you coming, they hear you. Pull over and turn off the engine. Laziness only hurts your chances of success (especially at these gas prices). If you’re up for the challenge, one of the best ways to stay under the radar is to try chasing albies in a kayak. You won’t have to worry about spooking the fish, but getting to them quickly enough becomes your challenge.
False albacore have a big place in the hearts of almost every inshore saltwater angler in the Northeast. We know they come ashore every year to feast on the abundance of bait. But what else do we know? Unfortunately, not much. Perhaps the most misunderstood fish in the ocean, we know next to nothing from a scientific and management standpoint, but the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) hopes to change that reality. Joining several key partners, ASGA has an acoustic tagging project underway to better understand migration patterns, post-release mortality and more. Currently, there are no regulations for albies, which is why ASGA is pushing the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to develop advance management for the species. Check out the ASGA Albie campaign page to find out how to get involved.
Get in on the action!
It is still early fall and many talented skippers offer fly trips to catch a variety of species. Below is a list of guides, from all over the east coast, who have called false albacore. Feel free to contact them on Instagram or the contact information provided and get in before the albites are gone!
Massachusetts (Martha’s Vineyard) – Captain Jaime Boyle (Boylermaker Charters)
Massachusetts (Martha’s Vineyard) – Capt. Abbie Schuster (Kismet Equipment)
Massachusetts – Captain Diogo Godoi (Gorilla Tactics Sportfishing)
Massachusetts – Captain Peter Fallon (Cape Cod Albies)
Rhode Island – Captain Jay Howell (Pamela May Charters)
Rhode Island – Captain Paul Triolo (Northeast Anglers)
Connecticut – Captain Joe Diorio (Joe Diorio Guide Service)
Connecticut – Captain Mike Platt (Light Bight Charters)
New York – Captain Paul Dixon (Dixon To The Point Cards)
New York – Captain Jason Dapra (Blitz Bound Guide Service)
New York – Captain Vince Catalano (Long Island Fly Fishing)
New Jersey – Captain Jimmy Freda (Shore Catch Sportfishing)
North Carolina – Captain Tom Roller (Waterdog Guide Service)
North Carolina – Captain Jeff Coen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Albie Project and ASGA Management promote the importance of the species
The Waiting Game – A Story of Albie on the Shore
5 Best Flies for Fly Fishing False Albacore