By beach or boat, there’s a tunny of opportunity ahead.
Let’s talk about false albacore fishing in New Jersey, something many find has drastically changed in the last few years. It was always a dream for many New Jersey anglers to go up to Martha’s Vineyard to chase these speedsters from the beach, but really what’s the point now when you have these speedsters right along the Jersey Shore beaches?
The last couple of years the light tackle action has been pretty solid. In fact, going back to 2018 the false albacore provided quite a few opportunities for surfcasters in Ocean and Monmouth County, but for the boat guys along much of the Jersey shore it was like fishing in an aquarium. These fish were along our beaches for around a month and it was probably some of the best New Jersey has seen and I am sure many of you reading this right now would agree with me.
While good-sized false albacore have been in the mix offshore throughout the summer, prime time albie action along the inshore waters is fast-approaching. As warmer water and bait such as bay anchovies and spearing are more present, it makes catching these fish a bit easier in late September heading into October. With water temps in the mid to high 60s where there is a large presence of forge species, I feel as this bite has filled that empty void when fluke season ends and striped bass season gets ready to take off.
In years past I was able to target these fish along most of the central/southern beaches, from Island Beach State Park down along the beaches of Long Beach Island. Some years they may be present in waters of Atlantic and Cape May County, those mostly the best of the bite where you find the most opportunities is from Sandy Hook all the way south along the inshore waters to Manasquan. These fish can be a challenge at some points so it will take some time a patience to be able to catch these fish.
Birds are an important aspect to finding these fish. As these speedsters chase after their favorite snacks they push the bait against the surface making an easy meal for birds as well. Even when bait is more spread out, when you find even a few birds slowing down and intently watching below, you’ve probably found the bait. Of course, where there’s bait, there are probably a few hungry fish around somewhere close. Then comes the tough part, trying to figure out what these fish want to eat.
When things are really good, we’ve had fish so hungry and aggressive that they would hit soft plastics such as Lunker City Slug-Go’s; but the one lure that we’ve seen work whether these fish were aggressive or finicky has been the Hogy Epoxy jig. By boat or by beach, this lure is able to be worked fast on the surface for the fish that are aggressive or you could let it sink and work it through the bait ball for the fish that weren’t aggressive.
False albacore provide the best light tackle fight that you experience locally, and fishing a medium to medium heavy 7-foot spinning rod with either a 3000 or 4000 size reel will get the job done; just get ready to hang on. Drags are also important when fishing for albies; I have seen the more pressure you put on these fishing during the fight can actually cause you to more often lose the battle. A light to medium drag is perfect. Plus who doesn’t love the sick sound of the drag scream when you hook these fish. Keep that bait selection in mind when choosing your favorite reel; matching the hatch is critical, so smaller metals, plastics and even flies are really the way to get lucky with these fish.
When fishing for albies from the boat it is important to remember that this is blitz-style fishing. Like fishing any other type of blitz you want to make sure that you position your boat in the direction where these fish are moving. Obviously, that can sometimes be difficult. What I’ve seen a lot when chasing down these is fish is that one minute they’re in tight to the beach and pushing bait south, and 15 minutes later they’re a few hundred feet in the opposite directing pushing the bait to the north. That’s why it’s important that you do not run over blitzing fish as they’re easily spooked and running through them could send the school deep.
If the fish do sound or disappear, give it time to see if they resurface. If not, head off and look for others. We saw this many times with the amount of anglers on the water here in New Jersey, but it really was interesting to see that you could move more north and still find more and more schools of these fish. A lot of the time if we found a small isolated school we would throw a few casts; if we caught one of two we were lucky but we would then move north and continue to look for more of these fish.
With patience and a dedicated search, hopefully you’ll find a school that’s willing to stick around and feed aggressively.