Little Tunny, a.k.a. Falsa Albacore Fishing in Florida
By Terry Gibson
Regionally and internationally, fishermen often call the same species of fish by different names. The little tunny, (Euthynnus alletteratus), would come down with a severe identity crisis if the species could hear all the things we call it. These names include "bonito" and "false albacore," among pet names like "albie" and "fat albert."
In the 1990s, fly anglers in North Carolina began targeting some big, fussy fish of this species around the Harker's Island area. The popularity of sight-fishing for this marauding, here-one-second-gone-the-next speedster exploded there, off the Mid Atlantic states, and in southern New England.
Fly anglers from around the world went to extreme lengths to catch one in those colder, stormier waters to the north, including me. Hearing about an "albie blitz" off Point Orient, New York, a buddy and I left a good striped bass bite in Cape May, New Jersey, where I was on assignment. We left at 2 a.m. to drive up there in time for daylight. The fishing was great, but not at all the novelty I'd expected, including catching a new species. At 7:30 a.m., as my friend Chris landed my "first albie," I realized I'd had been suckered into a most extreme case of leaving fish to find fish. I had caught thousands of the same species, and much larger specimans, in my home waters off Palm Beach County, where most people call them "bonitos."
These waters are typically warm and calm, especially when little tunny is thickest--May through Mid-September. The fish aren't nearly as fussy either, and they're average size is much larger than in the Northeast, and equal to the body of fish targeted off North Carolina. There are plenty of 15- to 20-pound fish in the mix, plus some even larger.
You can make false albacore fishing as easy or as challenging as you like. We can chum the fish within range of anyone's casting abilities. We can pursue blitzing fish. Or we can "dredge" them up from deeper structure. When they're fired up, they'll strike right on the surface.
The species occurs year-round throughout most ocean waters along Florida's East Coast, and in places along the Gulf Coast.
From Miami north to Fort Pierce, fly anglers also get in on the action. But there's a core group of really experienced nearshore/offshore fly-fishing guides that fish out of West Palm Beach, Jupiter and Stuart. This area enjoys a nexus of estuaries, reefs and ocean currents that make it incredibly biologically diverse and productive. You're likely to catch many other species if you can get past the "albies." This area arguably offers the best fishing for false albacore in the world.
The nearshore reefs between Fort Pierce and Sebastian inlets offer some really exciting sight-fishing for little tunny in the summer and early fall.
Likewise, during the warmer months, the action off St. Augustine and Jacksonville can be epic. Several species of tuna, plus sharks and tarpon are found around the shrimp boats as they discard the bycatch consisting of small fish.