See gulls? Find fish!

That’s Seagull 101 for Louisiana speckled trout fishermen in April

Think back to the best speckled trout fishing trip you’ve ever had. If you were fishing in South Louisiana, there’s a good chance it involved diving seagulls.

As the calendar turns to April and the weather starts to warm up, the sight of diving birds becomes more common for inshore fishermen in Louisiana.

Michael Lavarine of Metairie said there’s no other place he’d rather be when fishing for speckled trout, than fishing under the birds. That’s basically seagull 101.

“It’s a feeling like no other — when shrimp are popping out of the water and you cast out with an immediate hookup — that’s what really get’s my blood pumping,” he said.

Lavarine recently made a trip with his friend Will Geier in which they limited out on speckled trout and it was all with the help of seagulls.

Early start

Lavarine fishes Delacroix and specifically targets diving birds. He likes to get an early start in order to beat the other boats to the birds.

“Fishermen know what those diving birds mean so I like to be able to spot the birds first before the other anglers beat me to them,” he said. At daybreak, he scans the horizon for flocks of seagulls while driving to his first spot.

Lavarine recommends bringing along a pair of binoculars to help locate the birds.

“There’s been many times I’ve spotted birds in the far distance with binoculars that I would have otherwise overlooked without binoculars,” he said.

Once a group of diving birds have been spotted, Lavarine likes to make his approach from upwind.

“When possible I like to approach them from upwind because it allows me to throw farther by casting with the wind,” he said. “You don’t want to spook the fish.”

Pure popping cork excitement! Birds dive at daybreak in Delacroix!

When fishing for trout underneath birds, Lavarine uses an H&H TKO Shrimp but admits sometimes, when birds are diving, it doesn’t matter what lure you throw. For a cork, he recommends a Four Horsemen popping cork.

“In my opinion they are the loudest and have good weight for casting farther,” he said.

He pairs a 3000 series spinning reel with a 7-foot medium heavy fast action rod.

“This setup is tried and true and is my go-to for specks,” he said.

Reading the birds

Pat Fitzpatrick has been fishing Lake Borgne for over 30 years and has learned how the behavior of seagulls can translate into the location of fish and what type of fish are feeding underneath. The first thing he looks for is the type of birds diving.

“Terns are well known to be liar birds and will dive on bait that is not being chased by fish,” he said. While the two look similar, the easiest way to tell a tern from a seagull is their size. Terns are typically half the size of seagulls and are more agile when flying.  The next thing Fitzpatrick looks for is action on the surface.

Will Geier turns his back on the action to show off this beautiful speckled trout caught using a TKO Shrimp.

“If there are fish breaking the surface and shrimp popping out of the water, then you know it’s keeper trout,” he said. “If there’s no surface action, it’s probably gafftop catfish or small trout.”

For those who have experienced catching trout under birds you know that the action can go from non-stop to non-existent in a matter of minutes. When the school moves and the birds stop diving, Fitzpatrick practices patience.

“If I’m catching trout and they quit all of a sudden, I’ll slowly drift and keep an eye out for the school to reorganize and form nearby,” he said.

While diving birds are a clear sign of fish underneath, some speckled trout anglers often don’t know what to make of birds that are sitting.

“A lot of times these birds are just hanging out,” he said. “If I suspect they were diving earlier, I’ll drift in the area to see if I bump into a school of fish or wait to see if the birds find a new school of fish. I have bumped into trout plenty times this way.”

Less is more

If you’ve experienced catching speckled trout under diving birds, you know just how exciting it can be. But with that excitement can come frustration. While feeding trout will often hit any lure, Fitzpatrick recommends keeping it simple.

Michael Lavarine reaps the rewards of locating a flock of birds diving in the Delacroix marsh.

“I like to use a lure that will last so I don’t have to waste time fumbling through my tackle box,” he said. “I use a Vudu Shrimp because they last through many bites.”

If the trout are really thick, Fitzpatrick will use a tandem rigged sparkle beetle or shad rig to catch two at a time. Fitzpatrick recommends staying away from treble hooks because it takes more time unhooking the fish and there’s a better chance of snagging a bird or someone in the boat during the mayhem.

In April, as the weather warms, seagulls should become more active and locating fish will become easier. From now, until fall, anglers will be presented with a lot of opportunities to  catch trout under diving birds. Fitzpatrick recommends a few spots to try.

“I would target east and north of the Biloxi Marsh where there is still salinity,” he said. “Later in the year, in October and November, salinity is less of an issue, and reliable areas are Halfmoon Pass, Halfmoon Bay, and Christmas Camp Lake.”