Funny Fish Season
By Jared Wood
Albie Fever is in full swing. The drag screaming speedsters have arrived popping up left and right. The first few reports start to trickle in mid to late August. Albies in the surf are my favorite kind. Blistering runs that go left and right or straight at you then off to the horizon. This is what fuels the addiction to funny fish. The window is short lived but make the most of it.
Gearing up for Albie season in the surf requires you to scale down that surf rod and reel. Surf rods that I prefer are in the 8 and 9 foot range that can cast ½ ounce up 3 ounce. My general purpose Albie rod is the Penn Battalion II surf rod 8 foot rated ¾-3 ounces. The rod allows me to cover all my bases from heavier metals to weightless soft plastics.
The reel that I prefer is the Penn Clash 4000HS. Rate of retrieval is very important to me in choosing my reels. I want to be able to cover a lot of water without having my arm feel like it is going to fall off. High speed reels have become a game changer in the Albie fishery. There are days the fish want a fast retrieve skipping along the surface. Others a steady retrieve just under the surface gets you tight. The ability to burn a jig across the surface or rip it back in to cast at breaking fish is crucial.
When it comes to targeting the speedsters I prefer to have a variety of offerings with me. The standard metals (Deadly Dicks, Kastmasters, Crippled Herring) allow you to make long casts and cover a lot of water in short order. If the fish want them brought in fast skipping along the surface you can do that or slow down you retrieve and have it under the surface. By packing a variety of metals in sizes and colors you can jump right into Albie fever. At the start of the season the bait tends to be very small 1-2 inches so the fish can be very finicky if you don’t have the right profile bait with you it can be frustrating. When it comes to soft plastics the Albies just can’t get enough. When the fish are in tight a well placed Albie Snax rigged on a 4/0 swim bait hook is deadly. Dead drifting it with the current with the occasional twitch looks like an injured baitfish. Timing your cast and putting your soft plastic on the edge of the bait ball can be the difference in a screaming drag or not. Small pencil poppers (RM Smith Albie Pencils) are very effective because they match the profiles of juvenile herring, peanut bunker, and silversides fleeing on the surface. Watching a False Albacore or Bonito come flying out of the water to chase down your bait is a sight to see. Sometimes a slowly twitched lure will be the ticket or a metal burned across the surface will get you tight. Try different retrieves to see what is working that day. With albies what worked yesterday doesn’t always work the next.
Albies feed from sun up to sun down pretty much. These fish are constantly in motion so they are burning a lot of calories. If you miss your shot at fish feeding on the surface don’t give up. The fish are still there feeding under the surface or are moving along with the bait tending to circle back where they had just come from. When they feed they are using structure or current to push the bait ball where they have the easiest tim
e feeding and corralling bait. The night before an Albie trip I am checking the winds and tides for the next day. By using information I have collected in years past I can put together a plan to find out exactly where I want to focus my efforts. A location where I have spent my effort targeting funny fish is a pair of rocky outcroppings that tend to hold peanut bunker and silversides in tight when the wind is blowing out of the South West. Combined with the wind, the incoming tide, and current end up pushing bait into the South West facing corners of the pocket.
My first albies of the season I head for Nantucket. Making the trip out is something I have planned months in advance. From getting the beach buggy over on the ferry to where to stay. When I head for the island I stay for a week sometimes 2 just to get my albie fix. There is nothing compared to driving on the beach and coming up on albies crashing bait. At that point it turns into pulling over jumping out of the rig and grabbing your rod out of the holders running down the beach and hoping you tied the right lure on. Some days it can be frustrating making cast after cast with nothing to show for it. When you put the pieces together and get your retrieve speed right, color, and size of your lures it can be a memorable day with sore arms and tired legs from going up and down the beach.
If you do not have the ability to make it out to the islands there are plenty of spots along the Cape these fish show up at. From Woods Hole to Hyannis you have plenty of options. Look at a map of the area that you are going to fish and try to locate jetties, outflows, rips, coves, and points that bait can become trapped and is easy picking for speedsters. Gather as much intel as you can to make a decision on where to make a thousands cast. Having friends fishing different areas than yourself will help to narrow down where they are going to show or where you should try next. Funny fish season is a short window so make the best of sharing a tide with someone new, a buddy you have not fished with in a while, or a family member.
Jared Wood is a surfcaster who fishes from Maine to Connecticut. Targeting Striped Bass, Bluefish, Albies, and Bonito in the surf. He can be found on Instagram as surfcaster_jared. For any questions he can be reached at email@example.com.