Albies at Close Quarters

 

By Peter Cammann

I’ve fished the Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays, NY for many years and have usually found plenty of striped bass and bluefish there to keep me occupied. One afternoon last September, I pulled into the parking lot on the inlet’s west side, took a look at the water and smiled as I saw a large school of bait flashing on the surface. Something, or a lot of somethings were feeding on them. There was a flotilla of maybe 15 fishing boats chasing the school, including a party boat, which was crammed with weekend anglers. The school moved quickly and as I worked my way along the jetty, I could just make out the larger predator fish thrashing about on the surface. It was a real blitz!

On the shore with me were 20 or so men and women, all trying to keep up as the fish zipped from north to south and then back to the north again. At times, they were too far away for us to cast to and all we could do was watch as the boats tried to corral the school. The fish repeatedly slid through the gaps and veered off in another direction. Even though there were close to 100 anglers involved in this melee, all of whom at one point or another were able to make casts right into the midst of the feeding frenzy, no one got so much as a strike.

Except for the guy standing just off to my left.

He had driven from in Montauk, where he had spent a fruitless morning looking for stripers. He was tired when he got to the Inlet, so he parked his vehicle and settled in for a quick nap. When he opened his eyes, the school was right in front of him. Maybe because he was more rested than anyone else, or perhaps because he was simply a better angler, he hooked into two different fish on a pencil popper. The first spat the hook quickly, but the second stayed on. It didn’t take long for him to realize what he’d laced into. It was a false albacore.

Albies are not huge. A 25-30 pounder would qualify as a real monster, but they fight like a fish of much greater size. The runs the guy’s fish made were extraordinary, both for their length and incredible speed. It never jumped though, as the other blitzing albies had while gorging on the baitfish, but his fish did come within view a couple of times. It looked to me to be close to 10 pounds, which the guy confirmed once he’d landed and released it.

“That was my first albie!” he shouted. It was the first time I’d even seen one, so I walked over to offer my congratulations and we chatted for a bit. The other anglers were too busy trying to get their lures back into the water to join us.

Peter Cammann has been writing fishing stories for magazines and newspapers for over 30 years. He is the author of three books: Fishing Vermont’s Streams and Lakes, Ultralight Spin Fishing, and a novel titled SlipNot, all of which are available on amazon.com.

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