I just returned home from a great trip through the Carolinas where the main focus was false albacore in Morehead City, North Carolina. Let me start out by stating that the trip was a home run with good company, fishing and food.
False Albacore are a small tuna that few people have interest in eating, therefore they are the perfect sportfish. Likely if they were delicious there would be few around, especially with their bold personality.
False albacore or albies as many call them, like to race around slightly slower than the speed of light while they chase and herd baitfish. I compared them to hummingbirds, you never see one but always just saw one or as our guides Al would say, “there they were”.
Eventually, if us anglers are lucky, they ball and push bait to the surface. Then at the surface birds including gulls, terns, gannets and pelicans dive right in.
In fact, birds are often the first indicator that albies are on the scene. Spotting feeding birds in the distance is often worth an investigation. Though as I found, even though there are birds and bait, much more often than not, there will be no albies.
When approaching a spot with albies you’ll often see the birds frantically moving across the surface. When closer you’ll even see splashing, boils, spray and flipping baitfish as the albacore shred the bait school.
My friend George had booked Captain Al Edwards from Lighten-Up Guide Service. Al did an excellent job. Always on the ball, either by covering water with the boat looking for birds or talking to other guides on the radio and cell to find us more “cores” as Al called them.
This is one saltwater species where great casting is not important. Actually a good Midwest trout fisherman would do well with albies, as our guide would set us up perfectly with the wind in our favor and a short thirty foot cast to a dinner table sized target.
When your guide is moving the boat into position it is absolute chaos with crashing albacore and crazy birds, keeping cool is the toughest issue for most anglers, as our guide said many times, “wait until you can make the cast.”
Your target is smack-dab in the middle of the boiling albies, hopefully not hooking a bird before the fly hits the water. We were directed to let the fly set for two seconds, give it two twitches, pick it up and put it immediately back into the spot. Though the spot has now moved as the albies and birds chase after the frantic bait.
As you would expect, the takes are rock solid and while we did lose a few, the albies were easy to hook. After hook-up they’d make the fasted run I’ve ever seen and then give you a grudge match against their broad bodies as they lay under the boat. Out fish were all in the six to nine pound range, with the fights lasting ten to fifteen minutes.
Morehead City seems to be the heart of seafood country. Whatever you want is fresh and delicious. I indulged in conk stew, fried oysters, calamari, clam chowder, frogmore stew and everything in between. Late fall and early winter are not peak tourist months, so finding rooms was easy and all the restaurants had plenty of tables and were happy to see us.
To summarize, the fishing was fast, fun and very unique and the albies are red hot when hooked. The Morehead area is large enough to have many accommodation and dinning options and many museums and scenic areas to spend a weathered or extra day. It sounds like the fishing was also good for blues, reds and trout while we were there, so there may be back-up options if the albacore are not around.
Get a couple good friends together, give Captain Al a call and head to Morehead, you won’t be disappointed. You can reach Captain Al Edwards at (910) 520-9683.