Find the Birds-Find the Tuna!

Having a hard day on the water can be tough for any fisherman and can happen to anyone. Not being able to find the fish can really put a damper on what you thought would be a good day. One thing that everyone on the water knows is that if you can find a bird pack it can be an oasis in a liquid desert. Many people know that they need to find birds to catch the fish but not many people know how to find these birds.

Where to find birds?

Like any animal, birds have behavioral patterns and habitat preferences. Keep an eye out for these things when trying to find birds. Being in these areas you have a higher chance of finding packs of birds as you have a better chance of running across a bait school.

  1. A section of water with a color change
  2. Water temperature break
  3. Weed lines

Found the area? Always be ready.

When you are in a spot that should have birds in the area you always want to be on the lookout for birds even if your radar is not showing any birds. Keeping your eyes on the lookout will also help you with finding structure in the water that will also hold fish. 

When you are searching for birds, you always want to have your rods ready to go because birds can appear in an instant and can disappear just as fast and you don’t want to be stuck rigging rods while your boat is surrounded by tuna.

When on the lookout for birds you can find one bird, or you will run up on a pack of fifty. With the new radars you will mark a single bird so don’t always be looking for a large pack. A single bird can have just as many fish under it as a pack of fifty.

Reading the Radar

When you get a mark on your radar one of the first things you want to do is to confirm that it is in fact a pack of birds and not another boat doing the same thing that you are doing. This will happen a lot more than you think, and you will want to make sure it’s not a boat before you waste precious time chasing a boat. One tip to look for to help distinguish from a boat and a pack of birds is what the mark is doing. If the radar mark is changing shapes a lot, there is a higher chance it will be a pack of birds as the birds are diving and hovering chasing the bait which can change the size of the mark and a boat's mark will roughly stay the same size the whole time you are tracking it.

Finding Birds in Rough Seas

A tip for looking for birds in rougher conditions is that if you try running and staying on top of the waves you have a better chance of seeing farther with your radar. If you are going slow and the boat is rocking and dipping below the waves it can be hard for the radar to accurately mark and track the birds you are trying to find.

Marking Birds? 4 Steps to hitting the target

Follow these steps to make sure you close in on the birds and the fish below them correctly. The approach is one of the most crucial stages in tuna fishing.


  1. Establish a heading: You will want to find that heading that the birds are at, and you will want to turn autopilot on that heading and start heading in that direction. Depending on the weather conditions you can have a blind spot on your radar from your boat to a half-mile out to a mile where you cannot see the birds on the radar due to radar chatter. That is why it is very important to have the heading that your birds were at.
  2. Start scanning the water:  At this point you want everyone in the boat looking for the birds as you approach the pack. You won’t be able to see the birds until you are roughly a quarter-mile away or closer. Make sure you are scanning low and high for the birds. They can be just above the surface picking at bait, or they can be surprisingly high.
  3. Slow Down: Once you are in the area of the birds you will want to slow down to an idle and really take a second to look everywhere. The birds can appear from what seems like thin air sometimes and will be right next to the boat.
  4. Know when to move on:  If you cannot find the birds after this it's best to move away from where you think they are and to try and mark them on your radar again and repeat the steps above until you find them or decide to look for another pack.

Helpful Hints

One thing that can increase the likelihood of you finding the birds is to have a pair of binoculars that can help you scan the horizon while you go towards the heading of the birds. With these, you will be able to spot the birds at a much farther distance than with the naked eye and you will be able to see birds up to 2 miles away in some cases.

Once you get on a pack and you are hooking up and fighting fish you always want to have someone on the boat keep an eye on the birds that you are fishing. The birds can move surprisingly fast and can disappear very fast. Always have someone keeping an eye on the pack so as soon as you land your fish you can get back over to the birds and catch some more.

Practice makes perfect

Remember, finding birds is a learning experience and it won’t always work the first time you try it. As you do it more and more you will start to lock down what works best for you. Hopefully, this quick article can give you a head start on how to find the flying oasis in the ocean.