Albacore on a Kayak
Unlike their larger brethren, blue fin tuna, they can be regularly caught from shore and kayaks. The first time I tangled with them the surf was a bit rough so I chased them up and down the Monmouth county beaches.
Unlike their larger brethren, blue fin tuna, they can be regularly caught from shore and kayaks. The first time I tangled with them the surf was a bit rough so I chased them up and down the Monmouth county beaches. The first one I caught in Sandy Hook. Line melted off the reel on that first sizzling run. A few runs later and I was amazed that a 5 pound fish had so much fight. The school was racing south so I hopped in my truck and leap frogged in front of them and got the next one a few miles south in Sea Bright. The third I landed by the wall in Monmouth Beach another mile plus south. That’s where they turned around and raced back north and stopped at the same spots and got one at each. By this time the swell had decreased quite a bit and the wind had abated. So I launched my kayak at Chokecherry, where I had landed the first one from the surf, and after a while I got into them. That first kayak caught albie was less than 5 pounds but what a blast. I hadn’t experienced runs like that since my days fishing for long fin albacore on the west coast. I was hooked. So when albies are around I target them first. If they don’t cooperate I try for other species.
In each area albies have their seasons. It’s best to check with local tackle shops. One day I was getting a salad at Wild Oats in Naples when a woman asked me if I kayaked. She had seen me pull into the parking lot. I told her I only fish from them and it’s the reason I owned kayaks. She said her husband was the same and each morning before work he was fly fishing for bonito over by the inlet. I knew bonito in Florida were albies so I immediately drove over to the local fly shop and asked. They told me they ran the inlets in the area in January and February. On the east coast of Florida April through June is the time for Jupiter inlet. In November Harker’s Island in North Carolina becomes albie mecca as is Montauk and Rhode Island in mid September to mid October. In New Jersey they show up same time as Montauk. Our window is only about a month and by late September you can count on them as much as they can be counted. Being tuna they’re wandering speedsters and boy do they cover ground. However there are places that consistently seem to see them. The ocean is the most reliable place to find them. They will run into inlets and even bays on occasion but that’s a difficult prospect when fishing from a kayak. You’re much better off pursuing them in the ocean.
Being a tuna albies are sight feeders so you’re not going to catch them at night. However being on the water at first light is very beneficial. They’re a lot of kayak anglers who will fish for them a couple hours before going to work when they’re around.
Albies are a terrific sport fish but terrible table fare. The reason we pursue them is they’re a blast. Being a tuna they’re supercharged and there isn’t any mistaking when you’ve got one on the end of your line. That’s because it melts away at a sizzling pace. These small tunoids are speedsters and can and often cover ground quickly. You’re not going to chase them down in your kayak. They tend to bounce around a lot popping up here and then over there and then where you came from and then where you thought to go, etc.
I have caught my share of albies trolling when they’re in the vicinity. The fish busting on the surface are the typical tip of the iceberg. So there are many more fish you can’t see. However if you can place an offering in the midst of breaking fish it is often the best way to hook up. The easiest way to do this is to have an outfit set up that’s ready to go and can cover some distance. Being that they aren’t near any structure break offs aren’t an issue. So you can use relatively light line. The lighter the line the greater your casting distances. All things equal a longer rod will mean greater distance too. I prefer at least a 7-1/2 foot rod and have gone as long as 9 feet. Steelhead rods make an excellent choice as they’ll throw a metal lure a long way. The heaviest line I use is 20 pound braid but I prefer 15 and will go as light as 10. I like a lighter rod with some backbone. As for my reel choice I want a reel with a good drag system because an albie will burn up a cheap reel. When fishing NJ I tend to go light but in some other places like Montauk, Rhode Island, etc. I would opt for 20 pound. That’s because there’s a chance of schoolie blue fin tuna being about and they take it up another level. The heavier outfit gives me a chance with them. On the end of the braid I have a fluorocarbon leader tied direct using an Alberto knot. I reinforce it with the addition of super glue. I usually use about 6 feet and it varies from 10 to 20 pound test. However if I was pursuing them in Florida I’d opt for heavier gear, especially on the east coast. That’s because the fish in the gray suit is probably about too and you don’t want to feed all the albies to them.
As for lure choices at times they’ll hit almost anything; plugs, poppers, plastics and such. I usually use two lure types if I’m casting; metals and jighead with plastic. If I need to cast far metal is my first choice. That’s because nothing is going to cast as far and sometimes it’s going to take a very long cast to reach a fast racing school. Metal lures, like all lures, come in a wide array of models. Essentially you need some narrow metals like Ava and diamond jigs, stingsilvers, and such for when they’re on sand eels, bay anchovies or spearing. Vary the sizes from less than a ½ ounce to as heavy as your outfit can handle. You’re also going to need some wider bodied metals for when they’re on peanut bunker or other wide baits. Keep some Crocs, Kastmasters or Hopkins type lures in the arsenal too. The Bomber slab spoon is a great choice. It’s intended for freshwater but casts like a rocket. Just replace the hooks with something up to the task. Soft plastics on a jighead are my second choice. When they’re on rain bait I find a ¼ to 3/8 ounce head with a Lunker City 2.5” grub a hot ticket. When they’re on spearing we tend to go to longer paddle tails and flukes in white or silver patterns. A bone Jumpin’ Minnow can be deadly as can a 4.5” Slug-go. The Minnow casts great by the way. It’s a walk the dog type lure but I just reel it fast on the surface.
The technique is fairly simple. If you can cast into breaking fish do so. This is where a long rod helps a lot. It saves on paddling or pedaling. Most often we reel as fast as we can but trolled lures and flies aren’t fast and they catch their share of albies. There are times when they’ll take a Slug-go floating on the surface. So don’t hesitate to mix it up.
As I mentioned earlier albies seem to habitually return to many places each season however not always. Check with bait shops or look online to see where they’re being caught. Pursuing albies from a kayak is better with a lot of anglers. So we’ll often hit a spot and spread out. Whoever finds them calls the others. This way we can gauge what they’re hitting and where they’re going. If you haven’t tangled with albies yet you’re in for some great stuff. You’re never going to forget your first albie.
- Tags: albacore