Fly Life Magazine

Conservation: False Albacore IS Bait

B for the Marine Fish Conservation Network

A Rare Opportunity Exists To Protect An Extraordinary Animal

False albies are awesome… If you’ve ever stuck one, and listened to the sweet music of line screaming off your reel, you know this.

Undoubtedly, they are, pound-for-pound, the strongest, fastest fish regularly inshore of 20 fathoms, and in many ways they are the perfect light-tackle/fly fishing animal.

They don’t get very big — most are 5 to 12 pounds or so — yet, I’ve seen them burn up lesser reels, spool guys, dump 300-yards of backing… and of course bring smiles to many faces. Chasing fast-moving schools is pedal-to-the-metal high-adrenaline run-and-gun awesomeness.

In the fall they are probably more accessible than striped bass these days. Likely because very few people actually kill them.

There’s a good reason for that. They are gnarly.

Photo by Andrew Derr

Photo by Andrew Derr

Although I find it hard to believe, there are a few people who have allegedly discovered ways to prepare them, but really, I’d have to be in pretty bad shape, stuck on a deserted island or something, before I ate one. They are THAT bad.

So, two points I want to emphasize here. One, there’s not much of a commercial market for albies, at least not yet… because they just suck to eat. (Given the “underutilized species” movement — targeting less palatable but more abundant stocks — whether it stays that way is questionable.) Two, false albacore abundance is damn important to the recreational fishing community, particularly for light-tackle guides like me. While the Montauk striper run is really a shadow of what it used to be out there, false albacore keep guides employed and busy. Without them we’d be screwed.

That said, there’s currently some concern about the potential of a ramped-up large-scale new/developing fishery. Is it justified? I don’t really know. I sure hope it isn’t. But, according to at least one fisherman I know, the market price of false albacore has supposedly increased dramatically in the last few years, to the point that commercial guys are allegedly targeting them. Is it a large scale fishery? No. Pretty sure that thus far it’s hook and line, and hey, I don’t have any issue with that. But could it become large-scale really quickly? It sure as hell could.

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