Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 41; No. 4 - FALL 2017 - Page 10

Chasing the Birds by John N. Felsher Diving Gulls Point the Way to Hot Action on Speckled Trout L ike a scene from a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, swarming, squawking seagulls went into attack mode across the bay. The frantic birds hovered low over the surface whipped frothy white with activity and periodically dove to make another kill. However, while these sharp-beaked marauders viciously ripped apart and ate many living creatures, people in the boat several hundred yards away feared nothing except not getting to the melee in time. “Let’s go!” the captain commanded, setting aside his binoculars. “We’re going to have some fun now! We’ll set up a drift to let the breezes carry us toward the commotion. Get ready with something on the line that looks like a shrimp.” As we drifted into casting range, we immediately doubled on specks. Dropping the fish onto the deck, we threw back toward the free-for-all repeatedly to entice more trout. After a while, the action slowed as the fish and birds dispersed. We dropped several trout on ice and began scanning the skies again for more bird activity. “Looking for diving birds is a good way to find trout,” remarked Mike Gallo of Slidell, LA (Angling Adventures of Louisiana). “Trout follow the bait. Birds can see that. Find the bait and you’ll find the trout.” Speckled trout frequently gather in large schools to heard baitfish and shrimp to the surface to cut off their escape. At the surface, frenzied fish churn the water. Sharp-eyed feathered terrors quickly spot the ruckus and pounce on panicked bait attempting to flee the vampire-like dental equipment slashing at them from below. Attacked from above and below, shrimp don’t anticipate much of a retirement plan along the Gulf Coast. Chasing birds sometimes almost resembles hunting, as sportsmen spot their quarry from long distances and then attempt to “stalk” them. After a successful “spot and stalk,” anglers can fill an ice chest in minutes. “Watching birds is a good way to find speckled trout,” advised Bobby Abruscato in Mobile, AL (A-Team Fishing Adventures). “In the right spot, it gets insane. I never run past something that looks like a school of trout. People can catch a speck limit quickly because the fish are in a feeding frenzy.” Action can come swiftly, but end just as abruptly. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that trout left the area or quit feeding. Typically, after trout attack bait schools, the terrified prey species scatter while roving specks pick off stragglers. At any time, another surface melee could erupt anywhere. When the bait disperses, the birds sometimes land on the water to wait for the next surface eruption. “Many people overlook gulls sitting on the water,” noted Kris Kelleyin Seadrift, TX (Castaway Lodge). “In an area with a lot of active feeding, seagulls sitting on the water can point toward fish. When gulls sit on the water, that means the bait dove deeper and so did the trout chasing them. The gulls are just resting and waiting for the surface activity to begin again.” Anglers frequently land quick limits under diving birds, but that doesn’t mean everyone should go chasing after every feathered creature plunging into the water. A bird could dive on a single dead fish or a piece of bread floating on the surface. To confirm fishy activity, study the situation with binoculars. Look for corroborating signs such as bait jumping or fish striking near the surface. Sportsmen also need to determine the bird species. Some anglers call terns “liar birds” because they dive all the time. Much smaller than seagulls, terns typically go after smaller bait, like glass minnows that might not interest trout keying on shrimp. Some birds skim the surface looking for tiny morsels that trout ignore. Diving pelicans could indicate trout, but usually go after larger baitfish, although pelicans and gulls sometimes dive on the same morsels. Frenzied pelicans could indicate a school of large redfish or trophy trout feeding on mullet, big menhaden or other baitfish. For the best results, find seagulls. (Continued on page 13.) Ken Chaumont of Egret Baits, shows off a speck caught on a Vudu Shrimp in Lake Calcasieu. 10 G U L F C O A S T F I S H E R M A N Photos by author. W W W. G U L F F I S H I N G. C O M