False albacore have grown in stature as a highly targeted recreational sport fish. These speedsters have thrilled shore and boat anglers, and have become a valuable addition to the recreational community.
The bait or forage profile for false albacore are here in greater abundance due to climate change and warming water, and have brought a greater abundance of these fish to the Northeast region.
During the 2022 University of Rode Island Graduate School of Oceanography Baird Symposium on ‘Climate impacts on recreational fishing and boating’, anglers, charter captains and scientists alike, participating as panelists, pointed to false albacore as a data-poor recreational fish that has little commercial fishing value. Supporting sponsors of the symposium included Ocean Conservancy, a leader in sustainable climate ready fisheries advocacy, and Ørsted, wind farm developer and owner of the Bock Island Wind Farm.
Doing something about data-poor false albacore got Ørsted’s attention. Often, recreational species that are not commercially harvested have taken a back seat to commercially harvested species, with little research being done or explored by fish managers and supporting scientists.
The American Saltwater Guides Associaton (ASGA), a Baird Symposium participant, identified this need too and did something about data-poor false albacore with Ørsted and other sponsors. This year ASGA spearheaded The Albie Project, where 63 acoustic tags were deployed into false albacore that were throughout Nantucket Sound. The aim of the study was to learn more about false albacore movement and mortality.
The study was spearheaded by Dr. Jeffrey Kneebone of the New England Aquarium, who has conducted acoustic tag studies on sharks, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and a number of other species.
Tony Friedrich, vice president and policy director of the ASGA said, “A quarter of a million-dollar project comes with a great deal of responsibility. The folks at the New England Aquarium had to develop, design and build a contraption that would immobilize and properly position the albies for tag surgery while flushing sea water over their gills.”
In addition to Ørsted, wind farm developer Vineyard Wind and fishing gear and tackle manufacturers/businesses such as Costa, Old Maine Outfitters, Cheeky, Hogy, Simms, Van Stall, The Saltwater Edge and the New England Aquarium became study sponsors.
Friedrich said, “We had some big concerns, as we heard from doubters who claimed ‘False albacore bleed everywhere, most fish die when they are caught. These fish will die too.’ And ‘A tag that size is going to impede a fast-moving fish’s movement.’ Many said the project would not work,” said Friedrich. “So when we received an email from Dr. Jeff Kneebone in early December that was busting at the seams with data, our jaws dropped. The tagging effort worked – even better than we could’ve ever imagined.”
Dr. Jeff Kneebone said, “We had 57 fish, about 90 percent survive and start sending us data. The project focusing on Nantucket Sound worked well, allowing us to place receivers throughout the Sound. Even though some were miles apart, fish were sending us a lot of data. These fish are truly energizer bunnies. They keep moving. So in addition to proving these fish can be successfully tagged with acoustic telemetry tags, we were able to see just how much they move around.”
Friedrich said, “In one two-week period in September, 50 separate fish had a total of 4,935 detections. We had as many as 601 detections from one fish. These preliminary results are so robust we have aligned study sponsors for another year and will be doing it again in 2023.”
Dr. Kneebone concluded, “We plan to add accelerators into the mix in 2023 so we can tell just how fast the fish move and to make sure they are alive and not dead in the belly of a shark or some other fish. We also plan to extend our study, as last year, when we stopped the study at the end of October, we still had quite a few false albacore in the region.”
Hats off to the American Saltwater Guides Association for doing the false albacore study. It has and will continue to demonstrate the value of doing research on data-poor recreational species. The study will lead us to protect these and other species in the future, growing them to abundance so there are more of them in the water for recreational anglers to catch, release and/or eat (depending on the species).
Join the Albie Tag Team and support ASGA’s efforts to learn more about and protect false albacore for generations to come. Sponsorship supports one of the acoustic telemetry tags attached to a little tunny – deployed by ASGA in partnership with the New England Aquarium. All Tag Teams sponsors will receive an exclusive Albie Project “Tag Team” hooded tech shirt produced by SIMMS.
Where’s the bite
Saltwater and freshwater licenses. Anglers are reminded to renew their licenses for salt and fresh water for 2023. Saltwater licenses renew annually each year in coastal states, and most coastal states have license reciprocity. For example, if you have a Rhode Island license you can fish in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine.
For fresh water licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit www.dem.ri.gov/natural-resources-bureau/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fishing/freshwater-fishing-faqs; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information .
Cod fishing south of Cape Cod is still open. Party boats fishing for cod this winter include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com. Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, “Party boats are catching a nice mix of cod and very large bergalls (also known as cunner or choggies), so they are fishing.”
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.