Birds will guide you, but watch carefully

November 17, 2012

It is definitely that time of the year. The gulls and other wintering birds have returned to our area lakes, and they can point you to active fish.

Some of these birds can also fool you into thinking there are active fish when, in fact, it is not fish they are working. Learning to read the birds can help you on the water.

Most everyone knows when the birds are diving on feeding fish you may have found the “heyday” you been looking for. From a distance, you may see the gulls working, but they may not be on feeding fish.

They may be working diving cormorants. You will see gulls and turns working cormorants on all of our area lakes.

As you approach the birds, the cormorants will take off as they are spooky fish. That site is depressing to me, especially when you thought you found the fish participating in a feeding frenzy.

Another bird that frequents our area in the winter is the loon. When you find loons diving, you are probably on the fish. These birds are never here in large numbers, but when you locate them they are on fish or very close to fish.

I have seen them on Granbury, but I usually see them on Whitney. They are also common on Lake Texoma.

Other birds called terns are similar to gulls but smaller, and they may be working surface feeding fish or they may be picking up bugs near the surface. Many anglers call these terns “liar birds” as they can fool you to think they are on surface feeding fish when in fact they are not.

You can and will see Osprey and Bald Eagles on occasion and they will dive for their dinner. The numbers of gulls are probably more reliable for finding active fish, but I would not discount where those big birds are diving.

When you will find birds either hovering over an area or if they are diving on splashing fish you more than likely have found the spot. If they are hovering, they are watching fish below the surface.

A good set of binoculars can come in handy to scan the lake for these active birds and to see what they are doing. I always look for cormorants, as that can tell me that I need to look for a different group of working birds.

I have caught feeding hybrids where cormorants were feeding, but that was an exception. Catfish anglers like to fish below cormorant roosts. The droppings from the cormorants are essentially pure fish and the catfish are there to get the easy meal.

The egrets typically fly from one place to another and are not typically known to point anglers to active fish. But I have seen egrets working active fish with the gulls.

The cranes can also point you to active fish. They will take an easy meal if it is available. The key is to watch their actions. If they are circling or diving they are probably on fish.

I have been reporting how the birds have been working the feeding sand bass on Granbury. This is the case on many areas of the lake.

There are also huge schools of cormorants that park over schools of bait fish and eat their weight in shad every day. If you can distinguish a group of gulls hovering and there are no cormorants close by, you have found the fish.

When you approach a group of birds working fish, do not run through them with your big motor. Put your trolling motor down and work slowly around the school. You will catch fish.

If for some reason another boater runs through the fish you are working, give it a few minutes and sometimes the fish will resume their feeding after the water settles down.

If there happens to be a golden algae bloom ongoing that is killing fish, the birds will be flying all over picking up dead fish. Hopefully, that will not happen this year. If a bloom is ongoing, you need to find clean water to find fish as the birds will not help you here.

The gulls will be with us throughout the winter, and they are a welcomed asset to most anglers. If you get a chance, the birds are active on most every reservoir in our area right now.


Water temperatures are in middle 60s as of last weekend. Granbury is about 5 feet low and continues to fall. If you can get on the lake, the action is good for sand bass and black bass under the birds.

Sand bass are good on slabs near Western Hills, deCordova and also near Blue Water Shores.

Squaw Creek largemouth bass and catfish continue to be good to excellent. Black bass are being caught in numbers on soft plastics and topwater presentations. Channel catfish are good on prepared baits.

Lewisville and Bridgeport hybrids and sand bass are good under the birds on sassy shads and rattle traps. Best striper reports are coming from Lakes Tawakoni and Texoma.

As you are all aware, most of our area lakes are low. Call ahead before you head out to find out if you can access the whichever lake you are choosing to go to.

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Category: Sports Archived