Sept. 6, 2012 Big Tuna Feeding Small
Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, September 7, 2012
ALBACORE! The very sound of "albacore" is electrifying. Mention the fact that they are available locally and you may as well start a wildebeest stampede on the Serengeti!
This has been a better than average year for salmon. Stripers on the surf have been a bust. Halibut, which have been the backbone of fishing here in the bay area for the last few years, have been seriously lacking this season, possibly due to overfishing, possibly due to water conditions.
And white sea bass have just started to show up off of Santa Cruz and Monterey, yet not in the numbers they have in the last two years. Then, the albacore showed up.
A couple of weeks ago, there were confirmed reports of albacore showing up as near as seven miles off the coast near Monterey. The reports also mentioned that the further off shore you ventured, the larger the albacore became. Good and reliable reports stated that 25 - 30 pound albacore were caught and in respectable numbers.
Albacore aren't very complicated creatures and the majority of the tuna have been caught trolling the usual suspects; Zuker tuna feathers in Mexican flag and Zucchini colors, Sevenstrand tuna clones, and plain wood cedar plugs. These lures average six to seven inches long. For most of the season, these lures are like feeding candy to a baby.
I have noticed over the last ten years or so, that in September, for some reason, local albacore really key into relatively small baits. Swim baits, tube baits, small trolling feathers, and hoochies in the three to four inch range are gobbled up like popcorn at a bad movie. It wasn't until lately that I learned that at this time of year, albacore slurp up small pelagic squid and sauries, a small skinny baitfish.
I normally rig the bigger baits with 80 - 100 lb. test leaders, but with the smaller baits, I drop down to 40 lb. test. Instead of rigging the small baits singly, I like to rig them up in tandem, or even as a chain of three baits.
To do this, I tie a lure on the end of a piece of leader material, then some 18" or so up the line I tie a six inch dropper loop to which I will add the second lure. I repeat this for the third lure another 18" up the line, then two feet above that I tie a strong swivel. To get this whole rig down, I like to thread 2, 3, or 4 oz. egg sinker up my main line before tying it to the swivel.
Once out in the briny deep, there is no need to troll this mini-rig at the tried and true 6 - 8 knots as you would with the bigger lures. For these little lures, 2 - 4 knots is plenty. Usually, since you are typically not alone when the tuna are around, it is easy to keep track of the other boats to see how they are doing. If they are doing well, switch over to the usual stuff, but if this month is anything like the last few years, those other boats will be keeping their eyes on you!