So you think bonefish are the fastest inshore gamefish? Well, they look like weed-bed joggers compared to the gold medal sprinters in the light tackle category. Who wins this prize? Hey, hey, hey, it's Fat Albert, a.k.a. false albacore or little tunny. Although these fish are considered a nuisance due to their penchant for chasing down smoking pelagic rigs, they're downright maddening when targeted with light spinning gear or fly tackle. They blaze from one concentration of bait to the next, and by the time you get a bead on them, they've often moved to another spot. Fly rodders should target them with 9- or 10-weight rods - 12-weights for the 15-to-20-pounders - using a sinking line and a streamer fly such as a deceiver tied to at least a 12-pound tippet. Conventional anglers should use 12-to-18-pound tackle. Try using bucktails, plugs, or "Deadly Dick" jigs. Now that you're geared up to take on Fat Albert, these three techniques should give you the edge when the chase is on.
- MAD SCRAMBLING. This is the Northeast's most popular way of tackling false albacore. The trick is to find them busting bait on the surface and then cast to the boils. Retrieve your lure erratically; your goal is to make it look like an injured baitfish. Often, however, your prey will have moved by the time you get a line in the water.
- FOLLOWING THE FLEET. A technique often employed in the Mid-Atlantic region is to look for trawlers discarding by-catch. But beware. Force the hooked fish away from the trawler quickly, or risk getting fouled in the trawler's fishing gear.
- THROWING A PARTY. Guides in south Florida bring the fish to the boat using pilchards, menhaden, or mullet for chum. Whether live or dead, the bait will rile up Albert and all you have to do is cast into the fracas.
Catch-and-release tip: During the release, jump-start these high-strung athletes with a burst of oxygen by spiking them headfirst into the water.