Days are growing shorter and temperatures are cooling off. This means one thing for fishermen in the northeast: the fall run is starting. After spending their early lives in protected back waters mostly devoid of large predators, the prevalent bait in the area is about to have their world turned upside down. Mullet, spearing, bay anchovies and peanut bunker begin to move towards the open ocean with the powerful tide changes created by new and full moons. Striped bass, bluefish, false albacore and weakfish eagerly await these massive bait movements.
Above: Weakfish caught by Shawn Matthews off New Jersey.
Live peanut bunker are a pretty surefire way to get the attention of a hungry bass, blue or occasional weakfish. I prefer going the artificial route and tops on my list this time of year are paddle tail shads, spooks, poppers, and smaller plastic lipped swimmers. Just like in fly fishing, we try to “match the hatch” so we keep our baits in the 4-6” range to mimic the mullet and peanuts. I try not to dwell on color so much and keep it pretty basic, mostly white and yellow.
False albacore require changing up tactics and fine tuning your gear. These pelagics get notoriously picky when they come inshore, shunning large baits and heavy line that would take them so easily offshore. When foraging on peanuts and mullet, they can be taken on various metals retrieved quickly across feeding schools. I have found, however, that most of the time they are chasing small baits like bay anchovies and spearing. Small soft plastics tied directly to a light 20lb test flourocarbon leader are tops when these speedsters are keyed in on microbaits. Albies can pop up feeding viciously for a few moments before disappearing and showing up 100 yards away in seemingly no time at all. This can and will test your patience.
Below: Shawn showing off a false albacore aka Albie.
For shorebound anglers, best bet is to stay put at a choke point such as a jetty tip/end of an inlet and wait until a school makes another pass in front of you. Boaters have the advantage of extra mobility of being able to run and gun. When you see breaking fish, move quickly to the area but DO NOT run over the feeding fish, move your boat up-current of the breaking fish and kill your engines on the approach. You may only have time for one cast so remain calm and make it count. Quick erratic retrieves work best but don't be afraid to change it up; sometimes they want that soft plastic barely moving. Once you hook up, you’ll understand why Albies hold such a special place in the hearts of inshore anglers. Long drag-screaming runs coupled with lightning fast agility make the hard work of run and gunning all worth it.
For trip options, consider these charters and guides in New Jersey and New York:
- Waterman Charters - Highland, New Jersey
- West Wind Fishing Charters - Leonardo, New Jersey
- Morning Dew Sport Fishing - Perth Amboy, New Jersey
- Star*Fish Family Fishing - Beach Haven, New Jersey
- Karen Ann Charters - Brooklyn, New York
- Cortes Outfitters - Brooklyn, New York
- Fins Up Charter - Port Chester, New York
- D.C. Outdoor Adventures - Selden, New York
- Long Island On The Fly - Long Island, New York
- Capt. Ron's Charters - Montauk, New York
- Mike Elling's Montauk Fishing Charter - Montauk, New York
- Elite Long Island Charters - Montauk, New York
Report courtesy of Fisher Guiding rep, Shawn Matthews. You can follow Shawn and his pursuits of fish -- like striped bass (first below) and bluefish (second below) -- on Instagram: @Shwnyboy.