A dozen empty cars and SUVs at the front of the parking lot told me all I needed to know. Grabbing my rod, I stepped up over the grassy dune buffering an open stretch of eastern Long Island Sound and found a row of anglers with drags screaming and false albacore at the end of their lines.
Too bad the hook-ups were done before I could start casting, but that’s how things go with this speedy forked-tail predator. Although some days see them feed for hours at a time, albie encounters along the beach tend to be fleeting affairs. Thus, the hardest part of connecting is timing their appearance. For that, anglers use several strategies.
“I like to go from beach to beach looking for flocks of diving birds,” says Ryan Flatley, 32, of Southold, who travels the North Fork in his quest. “They make it easy to spot surfacing fish. If I find birds, I’ll cast with an olive/white stripe Hogy Epoxy jig. If I don’t see diving birds or splashing albies, it’s on to the next beach.”
Ken Dolney, 56, also of Southold, follows the same basic premise, although he prefers to toss a one-ounce Point Wilson Dart Anchovy lure on which he’s swapped out the standard hooks for size 2 or 4 VMC brand trebles. “The VMC hooks are stronger,” he says, “and you need that on a fish this powerful and fast.” Like Flatley, Dolney drives from beach to beach in search of a blitz, but if he doesn’t see any signs of life after a few stops, he’ll pick a spot and wait for the fish to find him.
Michael Giagnacova, 67, of Mattituck prefers to stake out a single beach and wait for albacore to arrive. “Medical issues limit my mobility,” he explained, “so I need access with a short walk to the water and no steep stairs. I figure if the fish are running along the beach they’ll eventually cross my path. I catch them mostly on Deadly Dicks lures. Since I throw them all back, hooking two or three per trip is just fine with me.”
Joseph Cavaleri, 57, of Franklin Square also targets albies from shore when he sees them breaking tight to the beach, but he’ll use a kayak if he sees fish feeding further out.”
“Sometimes targeting albies from a kayak isn’t as much of an edge as you might think,” he says with a wry grin. “These schools move fast and when you hook an albie — especially in rips with strong currents — you can end up a long way from where you started. That might mean a serious paddle after every fish you catch.”
Just as when fishing from the beach, Cavaleri suggests anglers in boats or kayaks watch for diving birds when targeting albies. “Get ahead of the school before you cast so the fish are coming toward you,” he advises. “Deadly Dick tins are all you’ll need to score.”
Because they are an oily fish with dark red meat, nearly all anglers release false albacore. Be sure to “walk” any fish that appears fatigued by gently sliding it back and forth through the water to pass oxygen over its gills. Once it has recovered and regained a little strength, launch it hard and head-first back into the sea.