False albies feeding heavily along NC’s central coast
In October just about any guide from Nags Head to Holden Beach will spend time in nearshore waters throwing lures at schools of false albacore.
That’s because the water fills with tiny glass minnows pouring out of N.C.’s many inlets.
“The size of the lures really doesn’t matter because what we cast is a lot bigger than a glass minnow,” said saltwater guide Jeff Cronk of Swansboro (Fish4LifeCharters). “When albies are feeding, matching the hatch doesn’t matter much.”
Expert anglers may use fly tackle, depending upon their casting expertise but most anglers stick to spin tackle.
“I like to throw Maria jigs or other types of hard baits that are 2- to 3-inches long,” said Cronk (336-558-5697). “But I’ll throw topwater lures if fish are hammering on top.”
Maria jigs are shaped 3- to 4-inch metal, difficult to obtain but sink readily so anglers can “burn” retrieves across the surface or let them fall. Some anglers troll them. Ten-pound-test braid is Cronk’s line of choice.
But no angler can reel fast enough to outrun a motivated false albie, which come in 4- to 14-pound sizes during the fall and can strip 100 to 200 feet of backing in an eye blink.
“I also throw 4½-inch Yo-Zuri Banana Boats and Albie Snax,” Cronk said. “I prefer Reilly rods.”
Find clear water
Cronk looks for false albacores in clear water, which sometimes requires a 4-mile run off the beaches. He finds false albies from Bogue to Beaufort Inlets.
“If the water is muddy in the a.m., but you have a 20 to 30 mph southwest wind, it’ll clear up the water within a mile of the beach,” he said. “But I’ve also found false albies over live bottoms and artificial reefs.”
Cronk likes to land false albies by grabbing the leader about two feet above the lure and lifting fish by the tale.
“You want to immobilize his head because he can shake and put a barb in your hand,” he said. “I land big bluefish the same way.”
The only problem with a false albacore lifted by the tail is it’ll throw up dozens of glass minnows which, if not cleaned off the deck or gunwales, will “harden like super glue” if not washed off immediately.
Contrary to popular rumor, false albacore meat is delicious when eaten fresh as sushi. After all, false albies are a member of the tuna family. But they don’t taste like canned tuna.
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