Waterman's Journal

Apr 25, 2016

Eyes In The Sky


Fishermen have a long history of utilizing birds to help them locate sea life and in turn, predatory game fish. The ability to recognize a particular species of bird and read their behavior is a skill that takes years to develop and if you want to be a successful fisherman, you'll need to understand these things. The relationship between fishermen and birds is something special because we rely on their ability to see and locate things we simply cannot. Whether you are fishing from a small skiff or up in the tower of a super yacht, there is a vertical limitation that we all are challenged with that inhibits our ability to see down into the water. Birds on the other hand are not faced with this limitation of height. They can fly as high as they need to and look straight down in the water to locate baitballs, feeding schools of pelagic fish, color spots, floating debris, etc. “You find the birds; you find the fish” is a common saying amongst the knowledgeable fisherman who rely on the “eyes in the sky.”

James Currie, host of Birding Adventures TV, journeyed to Palm Beach, Florida, on a birding assignment to study pelagic seabirds and their symbiotic relationship with predatory fish. During his trip, James met up with Pelagic Pro Team Captain Michael Barry and the two ventured offshore to the Gulf Stream for a day of fishing and birding.

Once on the water, the guys spotted diving terns in the distance and upon closer inspection, they noticed a baitball being torn apart from a school of voracious feeding Atlantic Sailfish. The guys experienced great fishing, catching a Sailfish within the first five minutes of wetting a line, along with spotting numerous species of pelagic seabirds. The trip was a considered a success as the guys had gotten more than they could have hoped for. They caught numerous fish along with capturing some amazing footage of birds and predatory fish working together. Watch the video below to see the amazing interaction between fish and fowl.

Frigates [High Flyers! Frigates have excellent eyesight and are able to spot feeding fish from long distances]

zancudo boat [A Costa Rican fisherman follow the seabirds to locate feeding fish]

seabirds [One of the many species of seabirds in Costa Rica]

frigates [Multiple species of frigates and terns hover above a school of feeding Yellowfin tuna]

dolphins and frigate [Dolphins are another key indicator that you are in a fishy zone]

feeding frigate [Frigates feed unlike most seabirds; instead of diving below the water and grabbing fish, frigates rely on predatory fish to kill or stun small baitfish and then they swoop them up off the surface]

dolphins [A pod of fast moving dolphins can be a sure indicator that they are tuna below them]

pelicans [Pelicans are another seabird that utilize their sharp eyesight to locate small baitfish below the surface]

foamer [A school of Bluefin tuna terrorizes a helpless baitball of anchovies off the SoCAL coast]

Fry [These baitfish have no idea who's looking down on them]