Most of the time when we're chasing albies we're looking for fish showing themselves on the surface. The search pattern we have in our brain involves seeing signs of bait spraying, birds diving, and that distinct tunoid slashing across the surface of the water. It's easy to fall into the mindset that the fish are always just eating in open water but if you spend time in one particular location and really pay attention to what the fish are doing you'll notice that they often cycle through an area in a general pattern. It's incredibly helpful when you can get a sense of that pattern. A lot of times the pattern involves the fish relating to structure, whether it be a bar that creates a subtle rip, a drop off, a junction of jetty and beach, a deeper edge with stronger current. Even a boulder field or a big rocky ledge will influence where the fish travel. Obviously the baitfish seek shelter around structure and we're all used to fishing structure for species like striped bass, but it's amazing to learn how frequently false albacore use structure in a similar way, not exactly the same, but similar. Make a note of where the fish show themselves adjacent to some type of structure. Even when you're not seeing signs of the fish on the surface it can be worth casting to that structure.
There was a spot in Woods Hole Harbor that produced quite a few fish for us last year, especially at times when there wasn't a lot of surface activity. It's a ledge adjacent to the channel with great current running past it and it borders a shallow shelf and rocky boulder field. We would occasionally see the albies blitz for an instant, spraying bait right up against that ledge. Obviously, if you can get your offering into the water while the fish are coming up, you've got a great chance of hooking up but we were successful basically blind casting into this spot. We would only see the albies every fifteen minutes but they were hanging right in the eddy line down-current from the ledge. We'd hold the boat bow into the current and cast perpendicular to the moving water just upstream of the ledge and let our fly or soft plastic get swept back into the zone and BAM!
There were about four other similar spots in Woods Hole that we really started to understand last fall. We were applying techniques familiar to us from fishing stripers in heavy current around rocky structure. It was fascinating and tremendously satisfying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Lackey's Bay at the north end of Naushon Island seemed to always have a school of albies in it for three weeks last September. While we didn't always catch up, we would usually land a couple of fish. Often a couple of fish would break the surface for an instant. A number of times we were spotting fish underwater on clear sunny bright days, never seeing them feed on the surface. They were working around a large ledge and a boulder field on the outer edge of the bay anywhere from 6 to 15 feet of water. We would start our drift at the ledge and blind cast as the tide moved us over the boulder field. We'd often hook a fish every drift while other anglers chasing the sporadic surface signs caught only frustration.
Some of the structure isn't quite so obvious. It's demarcated by current lines, seams, and eddies. Fishing where the fast water meets the slow water can be really productive for false albacore at times when searching for surface feeds isn't paying off. If you've seen the fish come up in a particular area and you're drifting, waiting, watching, pay attention to where the water is moving. These fish love fast moving water and strong current.
In 2013 one of the pieces of structure that produced for us pretty consistently for about five or six days and then intermittently for the next week or two was actually the bell off the entrance to Waquoit Bay. When the tide is running hard that's a popular spot to fish, as the water pours out of the bay bringing bait with it. There are a lot of places where the fish will show up, anywhere from right against the jetties, to the fastest moving water, to what is essentially a back eddy either side of the fastest current, to some of the bars that are just to the east of the jetties. For a stretch of time we would drift by the bell, casting as close to it as we could get without getting fouled and find fish. Sometimes they were just up-current of the bell but most frequently we'd connect in the eddy just down-current of the bell. We'd make our cast slightly up-current and try to have it swing right into the eddy lines created by the buoy. The bay anchovies were using the buoy as shelter and the albies were onto them. Of course the last two years we went 0-for in that patch of water immediately down-current of that buoy, but that's albie fishing. Thankfully, that lesson paid dividends beyond 2013, as we found other pods of false albacore relating to buoys and the eddies they create.