Chasing false albacore
rusty chinnis | sun
Captain Rob Gilbert prepares to release a false albacore that
hit a top water Gurgler
The first sign of impending action was the vague outline of what appeared to be birds barely visible on the distant horizon. As we got closer, a flock of wheeling and diving laughing gulls and terns came into view along with other groups up and down the beach and offshore. Closing in, we saw false albacore and Spanish mackerel slashing the surface of the Gulf into a froth as they drove schools of baitfish to the surface in an attempt to avoid the ravenous predators.
I was in the boat with Captain Rob Gilbert, and not far behind, Captain Harrison Ford and Steve Traves were readying their fly rods to do battle with the speedy gamefish. Both boats headed for the largest school of feeding fish only to have them disappear below the surface as engines were shut down and casts were ready to fire. Moments later the fish popped back to the surface about a hundred yards away and started feeding on the hapless baitfish.
Both captains immediately started their engines and ran towards the action stopping just short of the feeding frenzy. This time Traves and I got flies in the water just as the fish sounded, popping to the surface about 50 yards away.
Once again engines fired, bodies braced and the chase was on. This time Traves and King arrived at the action first and Traves was able to fire his fly into the middle of the feeding fish. On the second strip he was hooked up to a speeding false albacore that took him well into his backing.
Unfortunately, I waited a split second too long untangling a knot and fired my fly into the water as the fish once again sounded and disappeared. This time they popped up about 200 feet away. Again Gilbert started his engine and ran to the school. This is where the term “run and gun” was born.
Finally the fish stayed up, and I hooked up before they disappeared again. My fish blasted a popper on the surface, and after I set the hook, the false albacore put a deep bow in my rod as I watched line leave the reel in a blur. I fought the 12-pound fish for about 10 minutes before taking a quick picture and launching it back into the water.
This time I traded places with Gilbert, and he mounted the bow with his eight-weight Clutch rod. After a few missed attempts at getting with the fish, Gilbert hooked up on a big albacore and used the opportunity to test the resilience of the rod. He pressured the fish, bending the rod double, and landed the bruiser in an impressive five minutes.
For three hours, both boats ran from school to school getting into the action on some attempts and coming up empty handed on others. Still everyone experienced impressive action, landing about two dozen false albacore and several Spanish mackerel. Most of the time we employed the run and gun tactic, but on occasion, we just watched the birds and stayed in the general area of the action and let the fish come to us.
On this day, running after the schools was productive, but on some occasions, they are up and down so fast it’s best to just get close and be ready to cast when the fish show. On rare occasions, they’ll stay up for minutes at a time, allowing you to fire flies and lures right into the action. Those rare times are a real treat.
Now is the season to experience some of the most exciting action of the year. False albacore will take jigs, top water plugs, spoons and flies, making them the perfect target for any angler. You can do it yourself or hire a guide to show you the ropes. Both Gilbert and King are excellent at finding and getting on fish. If you decide to hire a guide one can be reached by either phone or e-mail. Whatever you decide, get on the water and experience this often frustrating but rewarding angling experience.