June 4, 2023
Discovering the motherlode of diving frigatebirds over feeding billfish is a captain’s dream.
© Scott Kerrigan / www.aquapaparazzi.com

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Can you actually discover fish by monitoring ­seabirds utilizing radar? The reply is sure, and the follow is actually nothing new. Christopher Columbus encountered frigate birds as quickly as he sailed previous the Cape Verde islands in 1492 throughout his first voyage throughout the Atlantic. Additionally known as man-of-war birds within the Caribbean by English sailors, these majestic airborne hunters are able to hovering on the winds for weeks, serving to them to be glorious locators of fish. They aren’t the one ones although; amongst many different species are numerous kinds of terns, gannets, boobies, shearwaters and gulls, and all can level us to higher fishing, relying on the place we’re and what our goal species is.

Newer is Higher

Myths and legends of utilizing seabirds to search out fish, predict climate and even assist sailors navigate alongside numerous sea routes run deep in lots of cultures. Seabirds are most frequently following bait that’s being pushed as much as the floor of the ocean by actively feeding predators, or the scraps that float up for the birds to succeed in. When you’ll be able to see them working, both with the bare eye or via a very good pair of binoculars, that’s nice. If not, it’s time to make use of the ability of radar to your benefit.

There are various myths and ­misconceptions about utilizing your marine radar to search out birds. For years, fishermen have recognized that you simply may use your marine radar to detect birds along with conventional makes use of reminiscent of collision avoidance and climate detection, however understandably, it’s a talent you could follow earlier than mastering. When making an attempt to detect birds, the person’s outcomes will range relying upon a number of things, together with the transmitting energy and horizontal beam width of the radar they’re utilizing. A more recent kind of solid-state radar has been launched, which is barely totally different than the older magnetron radar that was used for many years, and it has improved bird-detection capabilities.

I lately spoke to Eric Kunz with Furuno, and he defined that solid-state radar has a better common transmitting-power ­output when put next with the older magnetron radar, which has a better peak energy however equates to a decrease common energy output. In different phrases, the newer radar is transmitting a better common energy, which helps in higher detection of fainter or smaller targets. If you end up utilizing radar, the cross-­part of a goal determines how straightforward it’s to detect—after which monitor—that focus on. Birds are small and have a really small cross-section; nevertheless, when birds are working and diving to eat on the water’s floor, they flip at angles that at occasions present a a lot bigger cross-section on your radar to detect.

An electronic Raymarine display.
Whereas all main radar manufacturers supply a devoted Fowl Mode with new fashions, generally it’s higher to manually modify particular settings reminiscent of Acquire and Echo Stretch/Goal Growth.
Courtesy Raymarine

From Auto to Guide

Essentially the most very best situations can be ­flat-calm seas and light-to-no winds as a result of this makes it simpler for the radar to detect birds working at or close to the water’s floor. Increased winds and rougher sea situations add extra floor litter to the return, ­making it tougher to pick birds from all of the climate noise.

All 4 of the most important marine-­electronics producers have a built-in bird-mode function that routinely adjusts particular settings to assist the person detect our fish-­discovering feathered mates effectively past visible ranges. Whereas these auto settings are a giant assist, there are occasions the place you may additionally need to manually modify particular settings to higher fine-tune your returns. For ­instance, Acquire must be turned up; Echo Stretch/Goal Growth must be turned on; and also you additionally will need to activate Echo Trails as a result of this can assist with monitoring small, fast-moving targets. Utilizing goal trails set to 30 seconds will permit the radar to show faint goal returns and make chicken identification a lot simpler. Understand that you may want a stabilized-heading sensor with sure radars for this operate to work finest.

Jack Carlson is the proprietor of Two Conchs Fishing Charters in Marathon, Florida. He took a couple of minutes to clarify how he makes use of his radar to search out birds. Carlson makes use of a Furuno TZTouch3 solid-state radar with a 4-foot open array; he units it on a 2-nautical-­mile vary. “That is farther than you’ll be able to see with your individual eyes, and possibly about so far as you’ll want to chase birds,” he says. “Any farther, and it’s a hit-or-miss proposition whether or not the birds will nonetheless be there as a result of birds will stick with continually transferring fish solely so long as they continue to be on the floor. Clearly, on days with a gradual chunk, I’d contemplate going farther to search out fish, with the understanding that we’re taking a recognized danger that they may not be there by the point we arrive.”

The ultimate secret is follow. Each setup ­varies a bit, and all of us fish in other places, in search of totally different sorts of birds. By understanding how your radar and array work in your vessel, and utilizing them as usually as potential, you’ll be capable to discover extra birds and revel in higher fishing.