With albie fever seemingly breaking for the moment, it may be a good time to take a step back and talk about some strategies to make catching them just a little less frustrating. I, and pretty much everyone I’ve talked to, expect another large push of albies before the they make their final lap, but reports the past week or so have definitely been slow.
There’s no denying it. Targeting albies is about as frustrating as fishing can get. We’ve all been there–probably multiple times this year. Albies blitzing and slashing through the water and you just can’t buy a bite. Sound about right? Yeah, sounds right to me, too. Well, we asked around to some of the best funny fish anglers in the area and got some tips to bring more albies to hand.
1. Running and gunning will not do it for you. Wait it out.
Those expecting to chase after slashing albies the same way we do for blitzing stripers is going to be in for an awakening. This is especially true when they’re finicky and boat shy, which has been the theme this year.
We’ve had almost all of our success staying put in a general location and letting the feeds come to us–usually with the engine off. This can be frustrating, but you absolutely know that if you give up your location to chase a feed 200 yards away, another feed will pop up right where you were. Murphy’s law. We should call is Albie’s law.
Remaining in the same general location, or drifting with the current, for a half hour in a productive location usually gives us a few very good shots at pods of fish. As Capt. Nick Kathmann mentions in our podcast, albies will usually create a perimeter and move around to different bait balls in a large circle. Typically, they pop up in to the exact same location multiple times. So don’t leave your productive spot to go chase another one.
2. Forecast feeding direction
If you must motor up to a school (or if a school in the distance is blitzing so feverishly that you think you might die if you don’t go over and say hello), do so slowly, giving a wide berth in the direction they’re moving.
It’s important to forecast the direction in which they’re feeding. If the school is moving north and popping up consistently along that line, keep the boat in low gear and follow parallel to the school. This especially worked for the finicky bonitos we had earlier in the funny fish season. This is a great way to maximize your chances at a bite, and gives the fly angler extra shots (which they’ll of course mess up).
We’ve had the most luck casting over fairly stationary schools ( in which they’re corralling baitfish), and casting ahead of the school if they’re on the move. Anthony Besaw has been careful to not let the albies see your braid. So “lining” a school by casting over them has been a sure way to not get bit.
3. Figure out what the albies are eating
We’ve found albies eating a few different types of baitfish so far this year
- Large peanut bunker
- Small peanut bunker
- Micro Bay Anchovies (yuck)
When the fish have been on any size peanut bunker, bites have come easy. These are the scenarios where the albies really bust the surface. We’ve noticed very dense bait balls and a fairly stationary bite when they’re on peanut bunker. You’ll also see the bait spray out of the water.
Silversides of a few different sizes have been the most common baitfish we’ve seen. Albies can get finicky, but not as finicky as when they’re on micro bait.
We’ve found albies slurping up micro bay anchovies and silversides a whole bunch this year, especially around Buzzards Bay. When on these “clouds” of baitfish, albies won’t appear to be feeding as aggressively. They’ll glide through the water and porpoise, eating mouthfuls of tiny baits at a time. This is when it gets real fun.
Each one of these baits will require different techniques and of course, lures.
4. Hot lures
Picky albies means you need to go drop a few hundo at the local tackle store. But overall, this is what most people are having success with:
5/8 Hogy Epoxy: Albie Crack, Shrimp, Electric Chicken
- Great lures to throw to finicky albies when on tiny bait, like the clouds of micro chovies we’ve seen in Buzzarss Bay recently.
1 oz Joe Bagg Resin, Bone, Pink
- Another excellent bait to skip across the surface.
Crippled Herring, 1 oz, 1/2 oz
- The king of peanut bunker imitations.
Amber unweighted Albie Snax
- Capt. Nick recommends slow twitches, especially when blind casting.
Productive flies have been:
Size 1 – 2/0 Albie Whores in pink and chartreuse
Another great tip from Capt. Nick: When albies are being finicky, downsize your lure. When that doesn’t work, upsize significantly. Often, albies will hit something that sticks out from the pack.
5. Change up your retrieve
Most albie sharpies will tell you to burn your lure across the top of the water so that it skips, and this has definitely worked for us. This seems to be most successful when albies are finicky and makes it so they have less time to inspect the lure and decide whether they want to eat it or not.
But we’ve actually had the same amount of success giving a steady retrieve so the lure stays just below the surface. Add in some pauses and slight jerks if a straight retrieve isn’t producing.
Keith Bertocchi has had lots of early success letting the lure sink for a few seconds before beginning the retrieve. This seems to be especially productive for blind casting.
Make sure to work your lures or flies all the way back to the boat. We’ve had albies hit the lure right next to the boat a number of times this year.
Something that we don’t think about when casting into a ball of slashing albies is bait presentation. Your lure should be fleeing from the fish, not towards it. A silverside charging an albie doesn’t exactly look realistic.
6. Use the right gear
Anthony Besaw has used long (8’+) 15# flouro leaders. Under no circumstance should you be using a TA clip or snap swivel. Always tie direct. Anthony recommends a non-slip loop knot or canoe loop, which gives the jig a little extra wiggle.
You need to be using a rod that has the ability to throw very light offerings. We’ve been using St. Croix Tidemasters that throw up to 1oz.
7. Burn some gas (or put some nautical miles on that yak)
This is true for any type of fishing, but especially true for albies. Be prepared to burn some gas. Make sure to check multiple spots before setting up shop. As you probably know, albies are not drawn to specific geographic locations. They’re drawn to bait. Sure, bait will congregate to specific locations, but the hotspots can change by the hour. Be prepared to move around to find them. On a ridiculously finicky school? Keep moving and try to find them on larger bait.
8. Pick your days
The best feeds have been on colder during North or Northwest wind. This does a few things. It flushes bait out of the estuaries and puts a nice chop on the water. Albies are much easier to catch when there is turbulence in the water. Turbulence confuses the baitfish leaving them more susceptible to predation. Chop also hides your leader and hardware from the sharp eyes of the albie, making them much more likely to strike.
That 75 degree flat-calm day out on the sound or in the Bay? Probably not the best day to target albies. Be prepared to get frustrated.
Early in the morning has not always been the best time. High sun and a good chop have gotten the albies in a blitzing mood.
9. Don’t kill each other
Listen, I know it’s frustrating. I know the person running through every school probably deserves a 2oz tin through the windshield. But let’s all try to get along. Use these situations as learning opportunities. We’ll all get through this thing. We may even catch a few albies when it’s all said and done.