Scouting For Birds

On a fall morning, just at first light, I lowered the 22 footer into the canal behind our Bayou Vista home, headed down it and chugged, speed limit 5 MPH in the canals, into Highlands Bayou. Opening up the big, outboard I skimmed the back way into the Intercoastal Waterway. This was the same track Randy and I took several years earlier when he collided with a live, oyster reef. See my June 18, 2009 post, “[A Close Call]”.

Having a 11:00 AM meeting with customers, it would be a short trip this morning, but hopefully a productive one. My destination, with the tide coming in and a light southeast wind, was the sand flats that ran from Green’s Cut up to South Deer Island. The target was to find sea gulls (birds) working over feeding specs, the specs driving shrimp toward the surface and the birds gobbling up the shrimp the fish missed. Classic food chain stuff!

Armed with a 7-1/2 foot, popping, rod, 12 pound line spooled on a Shimano Bantam Curado reel, pictured below, rigged with a popping cork over a live shrimp hooked through its horn with a small, treble hook, I was ready for action. The action wasn’t long in coming. Of all things, I noticed several shrimp hopping out of the water and casting right in front of them, bam a big strike.

The fish took off peeling line from the reel, not the circling fight of a 3 or 4 pound trout, not the weight of a big red, then the fish, a skipjack or ladyfish, (Bodianus rufus) cleared the water. They’re real hard fighters, jump a lot, but aren’t good table fare. Many times they will be feeding on shrimp, driving them to the surface where the ever hungry, birds will congregate over them. Landing the skipjack, I released it and continued my scouting for birds.

Two hundred yards away, several birds were sitting on the water, this is a likely sign of a school of fish that has that has cleaned up the shrimp in one area, or of one or two big fish randomly feeding. Pulling up to within 50 yards of the birds, the light wind and incoming tide soon pushed me within casting distance. Letting fly, when the cork and shrimp hit the water, it was one of those rare times when the cork kept going down, almost jerking the rod out of my hand. This was a good one!

Several trips around the boat, I slid the net under a 4 pound spec! Thinking to myself, I’ll keep this one for Layla’s and my supper tonight, then my 11:00 AM meeting flashed into my mind and by the time I motor back, clean the fish, hose out the boat, shower and drive the 45 minutes to my meeting, I’d better be scooting.

My salesman and I made the meeting on time and closed a big deal. Mixing business and pleasure was neat and these quick fishing trips were a big advantage of living right on the water!