Many saltwater gamefish species that live in North Carolina’s inshore coastal waters will head for the ocean in November, going through inlets following waves of migrating baitfish.
None of them are more fun to catch and put up stronger battles than false albacore, aka Fat Alberts.
Streamlined like torpedoes, strong and blazing-fast swimmers, they range in size from 7 to 8 pounds early in month to 24 to 26 pounds around Thanksgiving. They are eating machines and a challenge for anglers sporting spinning, baitcasting or fly-fishing tackle.
“We should have a good month if, hopefully, all these storms stop screwing up the weather,” said Joe Shute of Atlantic Beach, N.C., a premier saltwater fly fisherman and owner of Fish Finder Charters and Cape Lookout Fly Shop (252-240-1427).
Anglers use spinning or casting tackle, including 7-foot, medium-action rods on 4000 or 5000 class reels spooled with 200 yards of 12- or 15-pound braid or monoand 3 feet of 20-pound shock leader on a 4000- to 5000-class reel.
“You don’t have to worry about their teeth, because false albacores have gristle teeth, like largemouth bass,” said Shute, whose favorite lure for spinning or casting tackle rigs is an Albie Snax.
“It’s a soft-plastic topwater lure, shaped by a Zara Spook,” he said. “I put a 3/0 worm hook on it, and you can throw it nearly out of sight, which helps when a school of fish starts busting a long way from your boat.”
Good places to find false albacore in November include the Beaufort Inlet channel from the mouth of the inlet to the Knuckle Buoy at the end of Cape Lookout Shoals.
“But they also come into 2 to 3 feet of water at times and shove baits up on the (beach),” Shute said. “When they’re not eating anything else, they’ll hit an Albie Snax. When a 25- or 30-inch fish hits a lure in shallow water, it’s something to see.”
Shute also uses 5-inch Zoom Super Flukes in white, pearl and pink on 3/0 worm hooks and with a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce weight.
In November, albacore are feeding mostly on 3- to 4-inch bay anchovies and silversides, aka spearing.
“Spearing look like a big smelt or glass minnow,” Shute said. “They show up when the water gets cool. Albies get on ’em and crush ’em. They’re usually on the surface or just beneath.”
For deeper fish, anglers often cast and retrieve small, chartreuse/pink or chartreuse/white Stingsilvers.
“If they are deep, we sometimes jig Stingsilvers below bait balls or fish behind (shrimp) trawlers,” Shute said.
If he fishes with fly tackle, Shute chooses an 8-weight rod early in the month, then switches to a 9-weight rod when fish are larger. He usually ties on large, saltwater Clousers or Deceiver flies he ties in his shop.
“A fly rod needs enough backbone because false albacores are strong,” he said. “They can take out 100 yards (of line) in a heartbeat. Sometimes you have to put down the big motor and chase one.”
Shute uses intermediate, sinking fly line for albacore, sometimes letting a Clouser sink to 40- or 50-foot depths, then stripping it quickly back to the boat.
“If it’s a good day, and you’ve got a nice northeast wind flow and baits on the surface, you might catch 25 or 30 albacores,” Shute said. “The average is 12 to 15. It depends on your skill level and what kind of condition you’re in.
“But there’s little doubt November is prime time for false albacore.”