Many anglers dis false albacore, calling them trash fish – even though no one will argue against their fighting abilities. True, their blood-red meat isn’t the first choice of many, but it’s far from inedible. And on top of that, it’s an excellent bait for just about any saltwater fish that preys on other finfish. Dice it up for grouper, cut it into strips for flounder or kingfish, and fish big chunks for sharks, and you’ll discover that the strong-smelling meat attracts more hits than many alternatives. Still, when it comes to people-food this is a misunderstood fish only because most folks don’t know how to handle them.
Catching a false albie usually isn’t the problem. When they’re around they’ll hit just about anything and are often caught by accident, when targeting other species. Spoons, crankbaits and diving plugs, and jigs will all attract strikes, but one of the more popular methods employed by catch-and-release anglers looking for nothing more than a vigorous fight is fly fishing. Three to five inch streamers with some flash effectively mimic the glass minnow and small baits false albacore chew on, and when schools are spotted chasing bait on the surface, immediate hook-ups can be expected. So, why does everyone dis this fish when it comes dinner-time?
Number one, false albacore need to be bled and iced the instant they’re boated, something many folks don’t like to do because it’s so messy. Or, at least they think it is – bleeding a fish doesn’t have to cause a big clean-up. The easiest thing to do is hold the fish in a livewell full of water (but with no baits), take a sharp knife and slice their collar and gills where the head and body meet. Then just let go of the fish, and quickly close the livewell lid. Let the water circulate for a couple of minutes while the fish bleeds out, drain it, pull the false albacore out, and immediately bury it in ice. If you don’t have an empty livewell, a five-gallon bucket half-full of water works pretty well, too.
If the fish is bled and iced properly, when you fillet it you’ll be surprised at how tuna-like the fillets look; just don’t forget to cut away the dark strip running down the middle of the meat. They try marinading and grilling it (a mix of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and olive oil for an hour or two prior to cooking works well) and you’ll enjoy surprisingly tasty results.