Like the days getting shorter and the nights getting cooler, one of the sure signs that Summer is winding down is the appearance of False Albacore Tuna. False Albies, also known as Little Tunny, Bonito, Spotted Bonito or Fat Albert, are not true tuna, but are more closely related to Mackerel, but they are all business. They can get up to 15 pounds and are lightening fast, voracious eaters. Catching them on light tackle or a fly rod can be a blast. These members of the tuna family will fight hard and won’t let up. Reports are already coming in of schools showing up in Nantucket Sound and around the Islands.
What to Use
Albies feed on balls of bait fish, so they like little shiny things, but they can be finicky. What they are hitting one day they may ignore the next, so it’s good to have a few choices in your tackle box to throw at them. You want to match the prey as close as possible. Daddy Mac, Jetty Ghost, Hogy Epoxy, Jetty Ghost, P-Line, Sting Silver and Tsunami lures offer a variety of color and shape options, and are some of the preferred lures here at the Goose. Stay around the 1/8-3/4 oz. sizes; anything that is going to mimic the small anchovies, peanut bunker and other small bait fish they are feeding on. Other anglers will throw soft plastics at them, but this will affect the distance of your cast. A fly rod is the most exciting way to land these little speed balls, and we recommend a Clouser Minnow, Peanut Bunker or Juvi Herring fly. Cast in front of the school and work them on the surface. When casting with spinning gear, start with a 10-12 mono with a 4 foot leader of 20 pound fluorocarbon loaded onto a 4000 class reel. On the fly, use a 9 weight rod with about 200 yards of mid- to fast-sinking shooting head backing loaded on a larger arbor with a 10-15 foot leader and a 10-12 pound tippet.
How to Catch
Although Albies can be caught from jetties or occasionally from shore (the Canal is your best bet for shore landings), your best chances are going to be by boat in shallow water. Albies are lightening fast, and if you try to cast into them they are going to be gone before your lure hits the water. Your best chance at catching one is to figure out their pattern, try to predict where they are headed, and cast in front of the pack, drawing the lure away. After your lure hits the water, let it sink and then do a steady retrieve to micmic a fleeing minnow. A bait fish swimming among them or at them will seem unnatural and spook the fish.
To Eat or Not to Eat
The old Cape Cod recipe for cooking Albies is to “Place the fish on a pine board, season well and bake. After cooking, throw away the fish and eat the board.” Unlike Bonita, which will show up about the same time as the Albies, most people won’t take them from the boat to the table.
That being said, if you want to try them, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost: bleed the fish as soon as possible and get them on ice. If you can make a salty brine mix with your ice to keep them colder, all the better. After you get them to shore, fillet and remove all of the dark flesh and rinse the fillets in salted water. Marinate the fillets in a teriyaki or Italian dressing in the fridge for a few hours before grilling, or try the classic batter, bread and fry method. Be prepared for a strong fish flavor no matter your method of choice.