Fall is a bad time to be a shrimp or a baitfish, but the bait buffet feeds more than just finned predators lurking below the surface. Birds also want a piece of the action, and while they can be a problem when you’re throwing topwater lures,  they can provide anglers with a huge advantage when fish are tough to locate. 

Jeff Lattig of Living Water Guide Service uses birds as locators the way anglers targeting bluefin tuna do over the winter. 

“When fishing inshore, the birds are a key indicator to the location of a school of trout in the fall,” he said. 

Since trout will be traveling in schools, they will corral shrimp or small baitfish and push them to the surface. Birds will come over and pick off the leftovers at the surface. 

Typically, birds can be helpful when trout are ganging up on baitfish across large, flat bays. Baitfish and shrimp imitations will produce bites in these areas, but matching the size of baitfish will put more fish in the boat when they’re feeding.

Anglers can expect to see several species of gulls, terns, oyster catchers, pelicans, ducks and the occasional eagle and osprey. Gulls are the only really important species, because they’re the ones flocking to the surface when specks push bait to the surface.