Fishing and Boating for the Birds

By Andy Whitcomb

Jul 18, 2016

Fishing and boating protect water resources and provide habitat for birds, which can help you fish. Learn how to increase your catch by birdwatching!

Funding derived from getting a fishing license and boat registration help protect our water resources with projects that keep our water clean, manage healthy fish populations, and control invasive species. There are other benefits as well. For example, these water resources also provide habitat to conserve wildlife such as birds. And by watching birds, you just may be able to improve your fishing success.

Where and How to Catch Fish by Birdwatching

Air. When fishing big water such as the ocean or even large lakes, anglers have long used flocks of diving birds such as terns and gulls, as a beacon of large schools of bait fish. Where there are many little fish, bigger fish are sure to follow. Eagle and osprey activity can also let you know when fish are near the surface.

Water. Swimming birds such as loons, cormorants, and mergansers can dive and swim underwater for surprising distances but they don’t want to waste energy; fish are close. Conversely, sometimes the activity of birds in water can attract fish. For example, a flock of geese dabbling in the shallows may attract smallmouth bass, creek chubs, and carp downstream which are interested in the aquatic insects they disturb and miss. 

Shore. A great blue heron wading along the bank may be so common of a sight that we don’t pay much attention. However, as with all birds, their eyesight is incredible and they are only there if there is food. Even if it just looks like the heron is pursuing frogs, the presence of frogs may give you a lead for a lure to throw, well out of the heron’s reach of course.

Birds are kind of like pre-sonar, fish marker buoys. Keep your distance but watch what they are doing and why. You just may get that fishing clue you’ve needed.

What birds do you watch when you go fishing? 
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.