Reading Birds Offshore: when are they over tuna?

Steelhead1

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Aug 8, 2009
192
228
Camarillo, CA
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Casey
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Boston Whaler Outrage 250
Ok guys, looking for your insights here. When you spot a bird school offshore, (usually terns) it is sometimes really obvious they are over tuna as you will see a breaking fish, a flash, or swirl. But what about those times when the birds are behaving similarly but you don't see any obvious signs of fish, are they still holding tuna? And does it make a difference if the terns are crashing into the water vs just picking at the surface? What are your go-to techniques for reading these situations?
 

mike carson

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Jan 18, 2007
212
96
glendale
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mike
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17ft bayrunner
Ok guys, looking for your insights here. When you spot a bird school offshore, (usually terns) it is sometimes really obvious they are over tuna as you will see a breaking fish, a flash, or swirl. But what about those times when the birds are behaving similarly but you don't see any obvious signs of fish, are they still holding tuna? And does it make a difference if the terns are crashing into the water vs just picking at the surface? What are your go-to techniques for reading these situations?
When the birds are high,the fish are deep,When the birds are low,the fish are high
 

SD2600

Opinions aren’t constitutional- they are earned
Apr 13, 2017
500
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San diego
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Dustin
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26' sea swirl
No absolute here.. the birds aren’t looking for tuna. They are looking for bait.. they could be keyed on bait without any tuna pressuring them... our local water has a ton of bait. But in the same breath predator fish like tuna push bait to the surface and the birds go nuts.... I’m no pro but if I see them working I’m headed that way to investigate ...
 

SouthBayKiller

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Mar 27, 2003
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Long Beach, CA
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Robert
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none
There are many many kinds of birds out there. Learning what they are a little bit, what they feed on and how they feed will help you a lot.

If terns are flapping wings and hovering in one spot looking down, then dipping down and doing that over and over its worth a look. Honestly it could be as little as one tern sometimes and that can make or break a day. From very very far away you might just see a little white flash, that's the birds wings reflecting light when they are diving. You often don't see anything from a distance but that little flash which can been seen from miles away with a good set of binos and well trained eye. When terns stop feeding, they almost disappear, they typically are up super high and quiet looking around, and as soon as the fish push up again they re-appear like magic.

If its just flying looking forward its traveling. You likely wont see a traveling tern from very far because its wings won't flash.

Shearwater can also be a good clue bird. If you see shearwaters sort of flapping their wings and walking on the water they are feeding. If they aren't feeding they are typically "rafted up" which can mean they are either just got done feeding or are waiting around to get started.

There are other kinds of birds as well, like auklets, boobys, petrels, fulmars, albatross, etc. They all have their little niche's and sometimes knowing those you might be a little clue to help you find a productive area offshore or rule out an area.
 

_dayday

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Mar 5, 2017
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435
San Diego
Name
Dylan
Boat
17ft CC "Gringo Mandingo"
^^^ good info there. I usually try to stick to terns and shearwaters. They both act differently and it takes some time to get used to what they are doing. Honestly you have to just put in the time to start to see how they react to different situations. Sometimes it looks like they are grouped up super tight and diving, when in reality one bird has a small bait and the rest are just chasing him.

Time on the water will beat any response here but I'd start with terns and shearwaters. Another thing would be to watch out for hard turns from terns. I've seen it a few times where they are cruising straight, make a hard turn left, do a couple of circles then keep moving. Usually ends up being a paddy or something in the water around that area.

Once you are able to differentiate terns actively working an area vs them just flying around it improves your chances. Last trip I was out we saw one tern working, and by working I mean he was circling, then would drop down, then pick at the surface then pop back up and circle. There was no surface activity, no boils or marks on the fish finder. We tossed a scoop of bait in the area and BAM! small wolfpack of open water yellows started boiling. We got 2 on the boat and then they were gone, along with the tern. sometime all it takes is one.
 

Ali

Master of Nothing
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Apr 24, 2003
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San Diego
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That Guy
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31' Innovator
Like Hansen said, trust the terns. If they are bunched up there's probably something going on or about to. They are the real hunters out there an always looking. If you get in an area and there'a s bunch of them sitting on a kelp, go rouse them and get them back to work.

Shearwaters rafts are a great signs that something already happened. They are not the hunters as much as scavengers. If they have their heads in the water looking down, there's bait and probabyl fish under them. Sometimes we will cast in them and around them with slow pops and get bites from fish with no visual signal.
 
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jbl_91762

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Sep 23, 2017
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CHINO
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JOEY
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KAYAK
Oh G great now I have to take on another hobby and become an Ornithologist. And I thought anything flying in the ocean is a freaking seagull. I am barely getting the hand of this fishing of my boat thing!
 
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winningman

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Oct 14, 2009
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torrance, Ca.
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MYOUNG
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none.
Ok guys, looking for your insights here. When you spot a bird school offshore, (usually terns) it is sometimes really obvious they are over tuna as you will see a breaking fish, a flash, or swirl. But what about those times when the birds are behaving similarly but you don't see any obvious signs of fish, are they still holding tuna? And does it make a difference if the terns are crashing into the water vs just picking at the surface? What are your go-to techniques for reading these situations?
When you see birds flying low,
and looking into water looks like following into water,

You through jig in front of them
they are following the fish...