Scanning the horizon for flocks of diving birds feasting on shrimp is a tried and true method for locating schools of speckled trout across Louisiana’s coast.

Sure, you might have lots of dinks to weed through, but it’s a fun, easy way to put some meat on ice — any type of soft-plastic under a popping cork will usually do the trick. And the action can be fast and furious if you have kids onboard.

Capt. Curtis LeNormand, with Curt’s Fishing Charters in Buras (504-616-2064), said knowing a few of the basics of “fishing the birds” will help maximize your catch.

1. Approach upwind.

This one is vital. Being in position to drift into the school — and cast with the wind at your back — is critical.

“Take your time,” he said. “Don’t run into them and then shut your engine down when you’re right on top of them.”

2. Use your trolling motor for the final approach.

On a recent trip in Bay Adams, LeNormand killed his engine well away from the flocks, and then closed the gap with his trolling motor. 

“The big engine can definitely spook them,” he said. “I like to creep in.”

3. Work the outer perimeter of the school first.

“Whichever way the fish move the shrimp, that’s the way the birds are going to be moving,” LeNormand said. “I try to watch if they’re moving right to left, or left to right or maybe coming at you.

“Having a Power-Pole is a big advantage. If they keep moving, you can pick up and follow them. If you get too close, Power-Pole down and catch a few.”

4. Know your birds. 

The type of birds diving matters. Don’t be duped by the liars.

“Preferably you want to look for seagulls — not terns,” LeNormand said. “Terns can lie to you. There will always be terns around, but you definitely want to see a few seagulls.”

5. Be on the lookout for jumping shrimp.

“Just because the birds leave, it doesn’t mean the shrimp have left,” he said. “Always look for shrimp jumping on the surface. If you feel like you’ve drifted out of them, look around for shrimp jumping because that’s where the fish will be.”

6. Speed fish.

Time is of the essence when the specks are biting, so keep putting bait in the water as fast as you can. Opening and closing the ice chest can wait for a while.

“As soon as you quit feeding them, they will quit,” he said. “When they’re biting like crazy, throw keeper specks on the deck and get them after.

“Catch them while they’re biting, because it doesn’t last long.”