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Vol 46 | Num 19 | Sep 8, 2021

The Offshore Report Ocean City Report Chum Lines Delaware Report Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
Chum Lines

Article by Capt. Mark Sampson

About this time every year, light-anglers from all over the country start to make the trek to specific places in the mid-Atlantic region to get a piece of what many of them consider to be some of the most exciting and enjoyable action on the East Coast. Heading out in the morning anglers might find their quarry waiting for them a stones throw from the shoreline, 40-miles offshore, or anywhere in between. Once the fish are located captains will strategically position their boats and then shut down so that anglers cast lures or flies in hopes of getting a solid hook-up to a critter that is sure to test every inch of line, every knot, every drag washer, and every tensed muscle between man and fish. Once landed the fish are carefully unhooked and released, because just like billfish, tarpon, bonefish and many other top gamefish, almost no one targets these fish for food - they’re just “fun to catch”!

It’s the kind of quality light tackle fun that we sometimes read about in the glossy pages of national fishing magazines or watch on the outdoor channels on Saturday mornings. Sound like fun? Do you want to give it a try? Are you wondering what-in-the-heck fish I’m talking about?

If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” I’ve got some good news: If they follow their regular migration schedule by the time this paper hit the streets those same fish should be off the coast of Delmarva in some pretty great numbers and I expect that many local fishermen will be “cursing” them for at least until the middle of October.

“Cursing them?” You ask. Yes I said “cursing” because the fish I’m referring to is the wonderful, or lowly (depending upon how you look at them) false albacore, a.k.a. little tunny, albi, apple-knocker, turkey, or bonito. In these parts most anglers have traditionally looked not too favorably upon the false albacore because the little 5-20 pound members of the tuna family typically attack baits and lures intended for billfish or other (more edible) fish such as tuna, dolphin, and king mackerel and it can be quite a disappointment when the outrigger pin pops, the cry of “fish-on” resounds throughout the boat, and someone plunks themselves down in the fighting chair with the thought of engaging battle with one of the larger “glory” fish only to realize that their “big catch” has turned out to be a false albacore.

But as “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” false albacore under the right circumstances are a wonderful resource for anglers to tap into. They’re strong, fast, willing to hit both natural and artificial baits both at the surface and at mid-depths, and are often available in great quantities. What more could you ask for out of a game fish? OK, I know, how about good table-fare? Well, as far as that goes, forget it! The super-strong taste of false albacore makes them virtually inedible. But that’s OK because true “sportsmen” do this fishing thing for the fun of it, not just for “meat” – right?!

In the early fall false albacore can typically be found anywhere from 10-25 miles offshore. Good places to look for them include the Jack Spot, Twin Wreck area, Southeast Lumps, the Bass Grounds and all along the 20-fathom line, although sometimes it’s necessary to run all the way out on the Hotdog to find them. If you can’t get a tip from another fisherman, a good way to locate false albacore on your own is to troll small spoons, feathers, or cedar plugs. Once you get a few bites in one area you can shut down and either anchor or drift (I prefer to anchor) and then do some light chunking to hold them around the boat. The little peanut bunker we catch around the docks are great for chunking with and can also be used on the hook. But for even more fun, anglers should consider casting small diving plugs, spoons, jigs, or even surface poppers because false albacore can be pretty voracious feeders when they’re worked up! Of course anyone who’s into saltwater fly fishing knows that hooking and landing a false albacore on fly tackle is a pinnacle achievement of the sport.

They won’t jump like a dolphin or bust your back like a big tuna, but these miniature members of the tuna family will always give the light tackle enthusiast the kind of fun they’ll not likely forget. When hooked, a false albacore will typically stay just under the surface as it makes a series of long fast runs that often end with a quick change of direction that sometimes has them racing back towards the boat. Anglers can only hold-on during the runs, crank like mad when the fish charges in, and then be ready to run, crawl, or climb around the boat as the fish darts from one end to the other. Exciting fishing? You bet!

One nice thing about false albacore fishing off Delmarva is that since hardly anyone targets them around here you’ll typically have all the fish to yourself and won’t have to worry about other boats in close proximity interfering with your efforts. And if you have any trouble finding the fish just shut your engine off and listen. If you hear someone cursing - go that way, because it’s probably coming from some tuna fisherman who just got covered up by false albacore!§

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



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