Like a bat out of hell, false albacore invaded Eastern Long Island Sound last week in heavy, possibly record numbers. The first few days of targeting them can only be described by a few select words, one of them being "MAYHEM". When that first push of fish came through and they were met by massive amounts of docile, unsuspecting schools of small bait in the bays and along beaches, what ensued were National Geographic worthy spectacles, the ones we can only hope to see on an average albie year. These were probably the most aggressive and largest albie blitzes I have ever seen. We're talking a FOOTBALL FIELD of feeding albies in certain areas. There were points where it didn't even matter which direction you casted or looked, there were feeds on all sides of your kayak or boat, and it didn't matter if they weren't up on the surface, blind casting was plenty productive. Oh, and if you've never caught one, they pull harder and faster than anything else that graces New England's inshore waters. And if you've never targeted them, you know nothing of the extreme highs and lows experienced while doing so. They are, very basically put, a miniature tuna that tastes awful that will toy with your emotions more than any other species ever has and you will swear at them. When they are in a cooperative mood however, your feelings toward them will be very different, claiming you love them, giggling like a little kid as they take searing runs and admiring their beauty before shooting them back into the water like a torpedo. Though there are still plenty of these steely, speedy critters in high percentage areas in eastern Connecticut, they have dispersed to all corners of Long Island Sound. The anglers lucky enough to experience last week's fishing were a bit underwhelmed by this week's, but by patterning these fish it is still possible to have a great day targeting them (or at least having clean shots at them) from kayak, shore, or boat.
Albies, just like any other species, are on a schedule. At times they can seem completely random, and may actually be random, but there are absolutely certain times of day and tide (and a mix of the two factors) where they will become active and show themselves ALMOST like clockwork in an area that they frequent. With certain sets of conditions, they will aggressively feed in the same area given the bait stays corralled or keeps filtering through. Their keen eyesight gives them the ability to completely ignore artificials almost completely and become incredibly picky, and if it doesn't look right, it doesn't get eaten. I suppose a good analogy would be to imagine that you're eating plain potato chips one at a time and finding a random Hot Cheeto in there... you would question it, and probably wouldn't eat it. On the other hand, if you were just wolfing down this same bag of chips by the handful without paying any attention, you might eat that Hot Cheeto without even knowing it before it's too late. One of the most frustrating and infuriating things is when they are going berserk on the surface, and they won't touch anything you throw at them.
One of the most amazing traits of albies is how they can break the surface directly off your bow, well within casting range, and in a matter of seconds that same school is 50 yards or more away. By staying put in an area where they are consistently popping up, you can have clean shots at them without chasing schools around wasting energy in the kayak or gas in the boat. In fact, the most productive way to "chase" albies is to not chase them at all. Sure, if they pop up and stay up just out of reach, bump in a little and make an accurate cast. If they are popping up everywhere but where your vessel is positioned, don't gun it toward every breaking fish you see. Slowly creep up to where they are continuously pushing bait to the surface, and wait for the right moment. In terms of stealth approach and not spooking these fish, a pedal kayak has the advantage as far as watercraft goes. Staying quiet and motionless can make all the difference, especially on days with calm conditions. When the sun first comes up and you start seeing surface activity from albies, try to position yourself so the fish are between you and the sun. Obviously this is easier said than done, and depending on wind and wave direction (and which direction the albies seem to be headed), this may not be possible. I feel this gives you another advantage in terms of stealth, not casting a silhouette or shadow into the water with the sun at a low angle while you're repositioning and making long whippy casts. If wind is at your back, even better. Aside from chasing these fish, the next worst thing to do is keep your outboard motor running while trying to catch them. You are not only doing yourself a disservice, but everyone around you who is trying to stealthily sneak up on them. Any outboard is too loud to keep idling with albies in range. Trolling motors are far better for small movements and adjustments while near a feeding school of albies, but the kayak reigns supreme when it comes to stealth.
This past week has felt a bit more like albie fishing normally does in Connecticut but is still really good as opposed to last week's amazingness. Certain areas were very consistent through yesterday afternoon, and these speedsters have been operating on a definable schedule. The fish that have made it into the sound have spread out quite a bit, and there are reports of albies from western sound and Long Island's north shore. There are still a good amount on the Cape and in Rhode Island, and with the numbers we saw in the first push, the season should continue to be strong through October. Big storms can affect these fish tremendously and they will make vast movements, so don't expect to pick up right where you left off after the next few days of unpredictable weather. Size wise, the albies seem a bit smaller than average this year, but I've never judged an albie by it's size. They all pull an insane amount of drag on light gear, and they all feed into the ailment known as "albie fever". Targeting false albacore from a kayak is on another level of exciting, an experience everyone should have at least once! I would be out there every day if I could be (I'm out there almost every day). To book a guided kayak trip targeting albies, click here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on guided kayak trips with me, click here. I have plenty of availability going forward, this is the best time of year to get out there so don't let it pass you by!