The first false albacore and Atlantic bonito of the spring have arrived in the waters off Cape Lookout, and they're attacking small lures and jigs and making reel-screaming runs on light spinning tackle. Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah’s Ark Charters in Harkers Island said the action is intense once a school of the small members of the tuna family are located.
"They definitely aren't bashful about whacking a bait," Lynk said, "and once they decide they want it, you can't reel it fast enough to get it away. I don't think you can troll fast enough to get it away either. If they want it, they put on a burst of speed to catch it. With the energy they put into chasing baits, it shouldn't be a surprise there is sometimes a big explosion when they hit the lure."
Lynk is finding the albacore and bonito in mixed schools beginning about 2 miles or so off the beach at Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout in 40 to 50 feet of water, and he’s found schools out to about 5 miles. Most days he finds them inshore of the Trawler Buoy (R8), and they should move closer as the water warms.
"They are pushing water when they feed," Lynk said. "Sometimes the stirred up water is what you are looking for and sometimes, birds give away the school's location. For the past week or so, gannets have been feeding on the same small baits with the alberts and bonito, and they're in big enough flocks you can see them for a ways."
Link (252-342-6911) said small lures that match the size of the baitfish the fat alberts and bonitos are eating are key. He rigs Salty Bay Glass Minnows on Salty Bay 1/16-ounce pencil jigs or 1/8-ounce jigheads. They cast pretty well on light tackle but bounce when trolled. Sea Striker Jig Fish come in a variety of sizes and weights from ½-ounce up to 4 ounces, and Lynk said the ½- ounce size is the best for alberts and bonitos. It casts well and trolls fairly well.
"You'll need to pay attention and position the boat so the wind eases it within casting range of the school and helps carry your cast, especially with the Glass Minnows," Lynk said. "Once they hit the water, point the rod tip down close to the water and crank quickly. It's OK if they skip a little – baitfish running from a predator do that – but they shouldn't bounce wildly or for long distances. Jig Fish have a little more weight, so they stay in the water better. You can either crank them steadily and quickly or jig them occasionally while cranking quickly."
Link said if you decide to troll, it is imperative that you don't run over the school with the boat as they will spook. He said circling the school often produces, but if they are hesitant and you have to get the lure farther into the school, you should troll down the side of the school and then turn across the end, so it will pull the lure across part of the school without running the boat across the school.