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Here’s three boat strategies for hooking-up with the hard-fighting speedsters known as albies.
By Capt. Austin Perilli
Tags: inshore
It's tough to beat the excitement of catching a drag-screaming false albacore!

Little tunny, aka false albacore, Albies, or Fat Alberts, are composed primarily of blood-red fast-twitch muscles which, unlike other members of the mackerel family, makes for remarkably poor table fare unless the catch is bled instantly, soaked thoroughly, and then marinated heavily. Even then, the strong, fishy flesh of the tunny will only appeal to a select few.

But what the tunny lacks in edibility, it more than makes up for in feistiness. Its blazing speed, keen eyesight and bulldog stubbornness positioning it as a superior light tackle adversary. Tunny can also frustrate the heck out of anglers who make perfect casts into a surface-slashing school, only to have their lure or bait pass through without a strike. Because they are so keen, several variables must be considered when targeting tunny including size and silhouette of lure or bait, speed of retrieve and line visibility.

Little tunny begin to infiltrate northeast waters when water temperatures creep into the 70s, sometime late in July. They can be seen free-jumping and streaking through pods of microbaits such as spearing, rainfish and peanut bunker throughout August, but they are very difficult to hook during their initial northward migration.

Once September arrives and northwest cold fronts sweep past the area, bait gets on the move south, and tunny go ballistic. September and October are prime times to tangle with tunny.

When targeting tunny by boat, three methods can be used: chumming, trolling and jigging. To chum up an albie, anchor up on an inshore lump or wreck where you might normally drift for fluke or chum for bluefish, and instead of deploying bunker chum begin tossing out handfuls of spearing. The fresher the spearing the better, and nothing works better than freshly seined bait.

Hook one of the larger spearing once through the eyes with a size 1 Gamakatsu octopus hook and free-line it out with the current. Your hooked spearing should drift out at the same speed and depth as the tossed spearing, which means constantly letting out line. Once you feel your bait is out past the productive feeding zone, reel it in and redrift it. If the fish are taking baits deeper in the water column, a small split-shot can be added three feet up the main line.

On a good day, it is likely you'll see pods of tunny shoot right up from the depths to inhale the tossed spearing within a few minutes; on other days it can take an hour or more to get the fish going.

Once they show up and the drag starts screaming, it’ll be well worth the wait!

Anything a tunny attacks will have to be small enough to swallow whole, so when choosing a lure to throw at them, think small!

Leader visibility, or rather invisibility, is crucial for hooking a tunny. Here’s where the frustrating part comes into play. Tunny have very keen eyesight and will race toward a bait, only to turn their nose at it at the last second if they notice the line or a hook that’s too big. The heaviest leader you should use is 20-pound test fluorocarbon. On days when the water is crystal clear, you’ll have to drop down to 12-pound fluorocarbon in order to get a strike. Connect the 3-foot fluorocarbon leader to your mainline with a double uni-knot or the smallest, blackest swivel you can find.

The good part about chunking for tunny is that it’s not a problem if you don’t have your own boat, or access to a private boat. You don’t need one. Just hop aboard any bluefish party boat going out to chum bluefish and instead of putting a 7/0 wire-leader hook with a chunk of herring, you’ll rig up for tunny as described above and fish with the spearing that you brought yourself. When everyone else is catching bluefish, your light, unweighted line will stay slightly higher in the water column, giving you a better chance of catching a tunny before a bluefish attacks the spearing and bites through your line. On many days in September and October when the tunny fishing is good, one side of a bluefish party boat will be fishing for blues and the other side will be fishing for tunny.

The second way to catch tunny by boat is to troll for them. For trolling, small daisy chains in front of bird teasers or size 00 to 1 Clark spoons are your best bets. The feathers on the daisy chain should not exceed 3 inches in length and should be either green/yellow, blue/white, red/white, black/while or purple. The Clark spoons can be sent out unweighted, far in back of the boat and skipped along, or a 2-ounce drail sinker can be placed 5 feet in front of the spoon to get it just below the surface.

Trolling speed will depend on water condition but figure around 6.5 knots. The last method for targeting tunny by boat is to jig them up. When schools of tunny are seen crashing bait on the surface, take note of which direction they appear to be moving and position the boat far in front of the school. Be sure to have the engine off as you wait for the school to come into casting range. Tunny have very small teeth which are used to grab bait rather than cut it, and relatively small mouths.

Crippled Herrings of a half-ounce, quarter-ounce white bucktails, 1-ounce Krocodile spoons, Deadly Dicks, 007-diamond jigs, 4-inch Tsunami split tails, and other slender soft plastics just about rounds out the effective arsenal. Try to match lure to the silhouette of the bait the fish are feeding on. If you know there have been a lot of peanut bunker around, use the Krocodile spoon, if sand eels are the primary forage, use the diamond jig.

For some reason tunny, like most other tuna, are partial to the color green. Adding a green tube to the diamond jig will usually add to its appeal. Retrieve speed, most of the time, should be as fast as possible, and if you think you’re reeling too fast and the fish won’t be able to catch up with the lure, reel faster. Burning a No. 2 Deadly Dick across the surface so fast it occasionally skips drives albies wild; and the bite at that speed is electric!

Little tunny are a blast to catch on light tackle! If you’ve never caught one before and want to experience one of the greatest inshore fights available, try targeting tunny within the next two months, before they head south for the winter. If you have caught tunny before, then you’re probably as giddy as I am with their return. Good luck!

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