by Steve “Tuna” Tornovish
How old am I? Man, I’m so old that I’ve attended about a dozen Jimmy Buffett concerts. Brother Jimmy has a particular appeal to those of us who spend a lot of time on islands. He gets us. A great example of Mr. Buffett’s understanding of island life is his song “Coconut Telegraph,” a song that accurately describes the speed at which news spreads around an island community. Yes indeed, island gossip is faster than, well, a false albacore. And there’s not much out there that’s faster than Mr. Albert.
I played a crucial role in spreading some island gossip recently. It started with a picture of the awesome Lynne Burchell Heyer. Lynne, one of Nantucket’s undisputed top anglers, was holding a monster false albacore that she caught on her boat while fishing the west side of the island. For bonus points, Lynne caught it on her birthday. So happy belated birthday to you, Lynnie B! Now let’s talk about that fish, shall we?
“I was fishing near Jeffrey (Jeff is Lynne’s husband and the two of them are a couple of Nantucket’s best charter captains). He yelled that he thought he saw some green flashes. I casted and hooked up on this fish, and then they were just gone!”
That’s part of the appeal of the false albacore. They’re always cruising at ludicrous speed, regardless whether they are in open water or running the edge of the beach. That speed comes into play when you hook up to one as well—every Nantucket fisher knows the sweet sound of a hooked albie ripping line off of a spinning reel (Note to self: what a cool ringtone that would be. Hmmmm…). “I love their craziness! Albies can be anywhere—in the rips, the flatwater, around the jetties—they pop up in unexpected places. And the fight! They’re stronger and more aggressive than bones (bonito), although maybe not as erratic.” Lynne reports that the pod of albies that she and Jeff ran across were feeding on sand eels, a huge baitfish for the Nantucket fishery. “The sand eels are everywhere right now!”
Lynne’s catch got my line on the fishing gossip telegraph humming. So if they’re getting albies from the boats, the beach albies won’t be far behind, right? Right, agreed my fishing buddies. So who’s going to do something about this situation? Noah Karberg, that’s who! Two days after Lynne’s catch, Noah drove as far up as is currently allowed on Great Point. He then hiked a mile or so up to the point and got busy, catching some big ol’ bluefish, a couple of bonito, and, yes, you guessed it—Nantucket’s first beach false albacore for 2023! Noah told me that he fishes a fairly heavy setup: a 10’ St. Croix Triumph rod paired with a Penn Slammer 4500 high speed reel, 30 lb. braided line and a fluorocarbon leader. Noah said, “With this setup I can hit the spots, into the wind, and retrieve at the right speed and level in the water column without burning out my arm. Most of my fish come from blind casting. Drag is important: these fish need to run and if you’re too tight and heavy, they’ll pull the hook.” Noah added that sometimes a heavier drag is needed if you have to pull your fish past seals.
Noah’s big news got my fellow beach anglers a-buzzing! One of my favorites texted me, saying that fishing for albies is “…probably the most exciting thing I do with my clothes on.” If you know, you know, right? The albies are game changers for the Nantucket fishing community. My brother Bill said, “When you hook an albie, it becomes a battle that you can lose in many different ways. Was that leader in good shape? Where’s that (bleeping) seal that you just saw?” More truth! John Colton said that his two favorite things about the albies are “…the crazy strike and initial run, and the ‘damn, I think I lost it’ feeling when it swims towards you. Your brain says reel like a banshee and then the adrenaline rush when the line goes tight again.” John added that he loves when the false albacore are “…greyhounding towards you and you time your cast perfectly and then the whitewater explodes!” He’s so right!
Dave Bold made a great point about the arrival of Mr. Albert, saying that it’s a sure sign that summer is coming to an end and that the Inshore Classic fishing tournament is right around the corner. Yessir! Brian Majczak says, “Albies are the icing on the cake to the surfcasting season on Nantucket. There is nothing like the explosion of an albie hammering your lure and the split second that follows as the line begins to empty from the reel. And then a seal steals your albie and you lose a $20 lure. Call it a day? Nope! You tie another $20 on and eventually find yourself on the walk of shame down the beach, trying to get your lure and fish back from the seal. Frustrated, you pack up your things and drive two miles down the beach. Wash, rinse, repeat!” Brian is quite right—there’s no quitting in albie fishing!
Corey Gammill, another fantastic charter boat captain, provided some insight to me about the false albacore fishery as we both waited out some weather. Corey contends that the albie population has increased over the past 10 years. “The eye test is that the trend of the albie fishery is upward. The strange thing is that there seems to be fewer bonito, at least from the boat perspective. I expect that the albie action will be heating up pretty soon. The bait is here and the fish are on the move.”
I asked what his favorite lure is for targeting the false albacore. Corey replied without hesitation: “The Island X 120. I like casting ability for my albie lures. It’s a great lure to throw and a great producer!” I mentioned to Corey that I love that lure all summer long for bluefish. I asked if he keeps the belly hook on the 120 or removes it (I tend to use those lures for bluefish, so the belly hook gets removed). Corey said that he catches approximately half of his false albacore on that belly hook. You can bet that I spent the rest of the rain delay putting belly hooks back on my Island X 120 lures!
Corey told me that he feels that the false albacore fishing here on Nantucket exceeds any other beach location in the northeast region, including Montauk. “There’s not a spot that rivals Nantucket for beach albies. All it takes is two good days of wind to move the bait towards us and then it’s on. The albie fishing exploded on August 20 of last year.”
So spread the word, folks: the albies are coming! And there’s just nothing like it. Now get out there and get after them! Remember to use a minimum of terminal tackle and to get your lure moving fast, fast, fast. And reel like crazy if you hook one and your line goes slack—the albie is swimming towards you!
Steve “Tuna” Tornovish is a Nantucket native who has spent his life fishing from the beaches of his beloved island. He loves to introduce clients to the joy of fishing with his Nantucket Island Fishing Adventures: stevetuna.com