Obsession is a word that is tossed around quite a bit; one that signifies a haunting of the soul, good and bad, where the desire or quest for something burns within, getting hotter and hotter the longer it takes to satisfy. This is albie fishing. For those of us who have experienced hooking-up with a false albacore, the instant adrenaline rush embeds the desire from the very first hook-up to mark the calendars, check the tides, and plan for the next cast, the next trip, the next score. The blazing speed of these mini, football-shaped tunas (Although they resemble true tunas, they are more closely related to the mackerel family.) leaves the first-time angler assuming they have hooked a monster, or possibly snagged a torpedo, as they sizzle 100 yards of line off the reel in seconds.
Come late summer and on through October, these silver bullets invade the inshore waters of Southern New England, and frantic boaters weave their center consoles through the waves on the hunt for the nearest bait ball being decimated. This is the time when said bait comes pouring from the many inlets dotting the coastline. Peanut bunker, bay anchovies, silversides and the like appear as dark clouds in the blue of the ocean. But doing the dance on the deck of a boat isn’t the only way to target these speedsters. Shore-bound anglers can surfcast for albies, as well. In fact, some of us prefer the hunt from terra firma even more so than from atop the sea. The challenge of the hunt makes the obsession burn even stronger, as hooking up from land takes much more preparation and planning.
My obsession to catch albies from shore was instilled in me maybe a half-dozen years back when I wanted a different challenge. I’m not saying it’s easy to catch large striped bass and bluefish; it’s not. As we all know, experience always benefits luck; but I was looking for something new. And man, did I find it! My first shore-bound encounter with an albert was intentional while searching for signs of them. I was checking the local beaches between Hyannis and Falmouth, and I pulled into a lot on Columbus Day weekend, which provided a good view of a jetty. There, surrounding the jetty, was a swarm of bay anchovies. In what seemed like only minutes afterwards, I was tight to a reel-smoking albie that found my blue Maria jig to its liking. And yes, I’ll say it: I was hooked.
As the seasons passed, I found myself chasing albies up and down the coast from Rhode Island to Chatham with a fraction of the traffic and some of the most beautiful weather to be had all year. In recent years, I had a revelation of sorts, where I’d turn my obsession into more than just a surfcasting outing. Sure, I’d keep some trips just for the solo hunt; but I wanted to share these outings. This was the time for day-tripping albies!
When planning these day-tripping outings, I check the reports for a variety of locations that are favorable for not only my chances of catching a little tunny, but also those locations that may offer an adventure for the family, as well. One such trip saw us heading south towards Rhode Island, to a little jetty that split the waters dumping from Buzzards Bay and Newport. This was a quaint little spot, out of the way; a great place for casting and cool features for my son like a jetty tower that looked like a metallic tree fort. Although the albies didn’t show as much as I would’ve liked that day, I did have a couple of hook-ups, I saw a few silver footballs run the jetty, and I ended the outing with two nice bluefish. But this was not the end of the day, however, as my wife, Shannon, was in for a pleasant surprise. While content soaking up a beautiful Indian summer sun, her face glowed as we took a right turn off the country road. In a picturesque rural setting, the landscape unfolded into manicured fields complete with grape vines and a rustic, chic barn, welcoming us to Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards. That evening we topped off our adventure with a little red, a little white, some great eats and cool sounds.
Last year, I set my sights on Martha’s Vineyard. I was in the middle of a stellar albie season and penciled-in Columbus Day weekend for a “Day Trip.” Sunday morning, my wife and I caught an early ferry (make reservations well in advance) out of Woods Hole and arrived shortly thereafter in Vineyard Haven. To say we made the most of this trip is an understatement. A light drizzle greeted us as we ventured east, past Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, where I rolled my SUV to the edge of the Chappaquiddick ferry. Flashbacks of Chief Brody and the fathers of Amity Island arguing passed through my mind as we made the short trip across the inlet from Edgartown to Chappy. Anglers with fly rods and light tackle dotted the beaches on all sides, and my anticipation was reaching a fever pitch while my wife reveled in the adventure that lay before us. She had never been to Chappy, and I pointed us towards Wasque Point; an amazing place, otherworldly almost. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend making a plan to explore.
Nearing the ranger’s gate to the reserve, my anxiety began to fade as I caught a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a cauldron of white, wicked, wind-whipped sea. Not to be completely disheartened, I was determined to show my wife the incredible lands and cliffs that lay beyond the parking lot, so we braved the winds and set footprints to sand. But all was not lost, for I had a plan.
We lasted more than a few minutes (but not much more) with the conditions hammering us as the drizzle faded in and out, mixed with sea spray. I told Shannon there was another cool spot to explore to the north side of Chappy, and we made our exit, heading for Cape Pogue. The parking lot was tight but open enough for me to squeeze in before walking through the wooded trail to the inlet below, albie gear and smiling wife in tow. Fellow anglers leaving informed us that yes, albies were there, but very picky, and no one had landed one in the time they were there. I am never dissuaded by reports unless they’re my own, and my anticipation was running high again. Getting to the bottom of the stairs, there were quite a few guys lining the shore, maybe 10 to 12, but most where in the direction of the pond rather than seaward. We headed seaward. I reached the furthest spot, so no one was to my left, and gazing out into the channel I saw albies off the point on the opposite side and right in the middle in front of me. First cast—bump, no hook-up. A good sign for sure, followed by fishless second, third, and more casts. They were on peanut bunker, and I quickly tied on a Hogy heavy jig after about 10 casts. The next cast I was on; the big false albacore screamed down-current towards the salt pond. A dogged battle followed a blistering run with me chasing the albie down shore before finally landing the fish. There were a few grunts from the Derby guys as I released the fish; I’d do the same if I fished all morning and a guy shows up and catches a fish in minutes. I can only imagine what they were saying as I hooked-up again.
Not long after, the skies opened up and sent us scrambling for the ferry. Lunch and a couple of cold ones were on deck at Edgartown’s Seafood Shanty where the roof-deck was closed but the inside bar was open upstairs. Football played on the TVs overhead, and outside Derby dancers tossed jigs in the inlet. I could only think of one thing: when was the next Albert adventure?