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Albacore fishing

Albacore fishing at Baltimore, Ireland
One of a catch of 21 albacore taken off the West Cork coast.
Longfin tuna (Thunnus alalunga), otherwise known as albacore, arrive off the Irish coast in late summer, often in large numbers. They are mainly found in the south west of the country, unlike the much larger bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) which can crop up anywhere along the west and south coasts. Sport fishing for tuna is a relatively recent development in Ireland, though commercial fishing boats in the south west have been catching albacore for years, along with occasional bluefin and swordfish.

Depending on your point of view, albacore are scaled-up mackerel or scaled-down bluefin. As an angling species, however, they do have a couple of advantages over their larger brethren. For a start, albacore fishing does not require specialised equipment. Ordinary 20 lb or 30 lb class gear is perfectly adequate, although you might find you need more line than normal on the reel. Heavy big-game tackle is not necessary. Then, if the shoals can be found albacore are generally less wary of a bait than bluefin.

The tuna may be within reach of the Irish coast at any time from late July to early October, but locating them can be the problem. Albacore are fast-moving migratory fish, capable of travelling 100 miles in a day. Weather and sea temperature are important factors. Off Ireland the fish tend to keep well out sea, along the edge of the continental shelf and out of range of all but the more adventurous breed of sea angler. Now and then a shoal turns up close inshore, but this is such an unpredictable event that an angler would be very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

Albacore fishing at Baltimore, Ireland - lures
Plastic squid and tuna feather lures for albacore.

Trolling with various kinds of artificial lure – including plugs, plastic squid and tuna feathers – is the normal method of fishing for albacore in Ireland. At different times and on different days different lures work best. So anglers need to have more than one type of lure in their armoury. Colour is also important. Once the fish have been contacted it is advisable for everyone to switch to a similar lure. Several rods can be fished at once across the stern and via outriggers on either side. Trolling can be quite fast. Albacore are not shy of a boat and the disturbance of the water attracts them. Teasers may be used to increase the attraction. Once the boat stops the fish tend to lose interest, so if one rod gets a strike the boat should be kept moving as long as possible for the chance of hooking another. It is not uncommon to have two or three peeling line off the reels at the same time.

The world record for albacore stands at 88.3 lbs (40 kg). The Irish record is 64.59 lbs (29.29 kg) for a fish caught in 2007. If you ever wondered what mackerel fishing would be like if they grew to a decent size, this is it.

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