(Oct. 25, 2012 - East Bay, at Gilchrist on Bolivar, TX.)...
Some of this seasons most exciting fishing action is about to happen on the Galveston Bay System, especially on East Bay, near Rollover Pass. In fact, it’s happening right now as of this writing. It’s called "working the birds!"
Every Fall when the air temps start dipping cooling the water, baitfish and shrimp begin moving from the chilling bays to the warmer waters of Gulf. This massive movement attracts huge schools of predator fish such as speckled trout and redfish who feed on them. These surface feeding sprees in turn attract flocks of seagulls, who in turn feed on the panicked, fleeing baitfish and shrimp.
Tucked within a small grassy cove while fishing for flounder intensive shrieking, screeching sounds alerted me of some bird feeding activity not far off. Throttling up and out of the cove my boat headed towards those sounds with my adrenalin maxing out.
After getting within 50 yards of this activity, I throttled down, shutting off the outboard and set my electric troll-motor overboard. Silently moving in I saw two other boats had arrived and were already hooking up, so I moved away from them to avoid spooking their action. Steering my bow towards another flock of birds a little farther off. As I approached the water under the birds was popping with trout hungrily snatching skittering shrimp from the surface.
Moving within casting distance to lob a silver spoon into the melee quickly awarded me with my first hook-up of about a 2-lb silvery spotted speckled sea trout. Another cast, another hit, and another sea-trout. Another cast, another hit, and another sea trout. And so it went for about 15minutes with hit after hit producing trout after trout until my cooler held a 10 speck limit.
After about fifteen minutes of action the bait soon scattered, the trout moved off, and the birds disappeared. I’ve witnessed birds up and working for an hour or better, but for the most part the "bird" action won’t last but a few minutes at most. It really depends on the amount of bait that’s schooled in the area. In one incredible feeding spree I enjoyed with friends a couple of years ago the feeding spree lasted more that two hours, and the fish weren’t trout but redfish. That was a very memorable fishing trip which landed us a nine redfish limit weighing over 70-lbs. In another incident last year several flocks of seagulls kept the action going for better than an hour where I actually caught and released over 60 specks within that hour. The birds were still actively feeding when I left.
Peak times for chasing the birds is from October thru December, and sometimes into January if the weather is warm. Peak fishing times are from daybreak till 10am in the morning, then again around 2pm to 5pm in the afternoon.
I fish 3/4 oz silver or gold spoons due to being able to cast good distances and they work very well. But top-water, and subsurface hard plastics will produce as will soft plastics and speck-rigs. Even fly rod anglers fishing streamers with Mylar can take advantage of this sport as can kayakers and canoeists.
Boaters with high tech outboards and electric troll-motors will always have the upper hand due to the fact that they are more maneuverable and are quicker getting to them. But if I had my druthers kayaks would be my choice putting you up front and personal to some outstanding and exciting fishing action.
Always keep a pair of binoculars in the boat for spotting working birds off in the distance. A good fishing map with recorded structure and GPS points will also be a plus to have on board for quickly locating prime fishing sites. It’s also important to note that seagulls, not terns, will put you on fish. Terns are terrible fish spotters and often referred to as liar birds. Seagulls, however are 100% on when spotting feeding fish. Make sure they are hovering low and diving in a feeding area. If they’re high and swooping they aren’t on fish as yet but waiting for the school of baitfish to be pushed up by the predators.
One thing to remember though, when moving on a school of feeding trout under birds shut your engine down about 50 to 100 yards upwind, then drift in to the action to avoid spooking the fish. If you’re rigged with a trolling motor use the TM to take you within casting distance (about 30 yards). NEVER move on top of the feeding fish or you will most certainly spook them. If other boaters are already there then keep a good distance away to avoid ruining their fishing day. It’s a common sense factor here folks.
"Chasing the birds" is a must do for your bucket list of things to experience and enjoy in your lifetime and can instill fond memories of some exciting fishing times experienced.
My hopeful flounder fishing trip had turned out to be very successful trout fishing trip with the birds spotting them for me rather than spending my day looking for them.
But for now the flounder would have to wait as ten speckled sea-trout laid on ice in my cooler to be cleaned and prepared for many suppers yet to come. It’s prime bird chasing time on the bay folks......GO GETTUM!!
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