North Carolina false albacore report
I traveled with two of my brothers from RI to Harkers Island, NC to fish for Albies from November 13-18. It was our first trip there and thanks to some very helpful telephone conversations with Nat Moody and Derek Spingler of First Light Anglers we were well prepared for our trip.
The ride down was an uneventful 16 hours (aside from a few stops and traffic) of towing my 20' SeaCraft. A couple of hours before we arrived I called Nat one more time to get an update on the situation. He basically said, "they're everywhere, you'll have no problem finding the fish." That was good to hear.
We arrived at the Harkers Island Fishing Center at around 8PM. The folks at the office had left for the day, but the room was unlocked with the key on the table. The room was clean and the showers were hot. There was plenty of room for three brothers to stay in one room. What more could we want? We rigged rods and drank some scotch and were up and around by 5:30 the next morning.
We had a late start on Sunday. By the time we conferred with the office about our arrangements, etc it was 7:30 by the time we left the dock. Following days saw us on the water by 6:30am. Just a bit ahead of the crowds.
We followed the serpentine channels out to the hook at Cape Lookout. As we approached the #2 buoy we saw birds, fish and boats everywhere. Nat wasn't kidding. The weather was clear, in the 60s with a light breeze from the southeast.
Fishing was easy and due to the vast numbers of breaking fish, there was no need to crowd one and other. The birds made it pretty clear where the next eruption would be. The albies in this area were in the 6 to 8# range, so after a couple of hours we headed south to find larger fish. About 4 miles south we ran into more fish just off of another group of boats. These fish were larger but not as reckless as those earlier. Still we managed a bunch of them. I was using a 10wt with a fast sinking head. I had the best response from a 4 inch smoke/white fly tied on a jig hook. These fish were in the 8 to 10# range.
That's how the day went. At one point we motored out a few more miles and did some half hearted trolling for kings. As it turned out we did not have the right equipment on board and the seas were starting to build. We did witness one follow as we retrieved one of the trolled lures.
Monday was a different ballgame altogether. The fish were not breaking nearly as much as the previous day, and whenever fish would start busting, a bunch of boats would scream up to the school putting it down. Still, I ended up with a half dozen fish in the first few hours by blind casting around bait balls.
It was a beautiful day with light and variable winds, reaching the 70s. At mid morning another boat came up to us and told us there was good fishing on the east side of the shoals. As they left, I hooked another albie deep. We left anyway for some excitement. We managed to cross the shoals and sure enough there were busting fish from near shore out to about 2 miles in front of CL light.
Using the fly that was so effective earlier when nothing was showing I could not buy a bite. I had been using a small olive/white clouser. After several fly changes and frustrating bite-free blitzes I switched to the fly that crushed them for the rest of the day. It was a hot pink estaz bugger with a white marabou tail. Go figure. That fly was responsible for a 13+# albie on its first cast.
On Tuesday morning the wind was blowing onshore to about 20 in the morning. The seas were a bit sloppy and fish seemed scarce, including on the east side. There were many boats competing for few fish. We managed a couple but things were slow until mid afternoon. At that time, we were concerned about storms coming through the area. You could see them in the distance. However, by about 2pm the wind fell off and it was clear that the storms were passing well to the west of us.
We decided to cross the shoals to the east one more time. That was the ticket. There were blitzing fish for the next several hours on FAC seas without another boat in sight. The only problem was that the hot pink bugger was out of favor. I started connecting again on an olive mushmouth about 5 inches long. Much bigger than the bait.
From Wednesday through Friday the winds and seas built and the weather became cold. The shoals were too treacherous to cross and there were small craft advisories each day, While that did not keep us off the water, it did limit where we could safely travel. By late morning on Friday my steering started giving me problems so we headed in. Of course we had to pass up breaking fish in Beaufort inlet, but with limited steering and honking wind gusting to 30+ it was the prudent thing to do.
In closing I want to express my appreciation for those who directly and indirectly helped me plan and participate in this fishery. I've already mentioned the First Light guys, who were very generous though I've never met them face to face. Also, Tom Roller of WaterDog Guide service supplied us with excellent advice on fishing for kings. Information archived on sites such as Reel-Time, North Carolina Waterman and Brian Horsley's site helped a great deal. I plan to return next year.