Birds of Hawaii, Part III
W ith all the species that may pass you by, it’s up to you to determine which birds will be the best partners for the day. Among all of the aku birds, the white booby is the most obvious sea bid and the easiest to detect from a distance. White boobies flying in formation tend to be an excellent indicator of mahi mahi and tuna. Boobies are proficient hunters. Look for them all flying together, heading the same way.
If one or two birds are flying from side to side, they are probably just as confused as you are. However, three or four flying wing tip to wing tip like a military fighter squadron- and appearing to know where they’re going, not just surfing down the waves- obviously have an agenda.
If boobies head off in one direction and are followed by other types of birds, chances are they’re on the right track. Birds will often follow current lines. The birds know where to start their search if they were successful the day before.
Follow in the general direction and look for areas where the birds seem to be congregating. Concentrate on the area one-inch above the horizon as far as you can see; that will be your best bet in finding schools that are within your reach.
A moving pile of birds could signal anything from mahi mahi to skipjack tuna. An open school of mahi mahi will generally attract both white and brown boobies, which will fly in a very active and excited manner. As the mahi mahi push bait (malolo, ika) to the surface, the boobies will be there to get their share.
It’s when they get excited about the school surfacing and piling up that you’ll have your best opportunity to see the birds as they wheel above over the fish. They’ll dive on the school and disappear below the surface, often chasing the bait down several meters. Both white and brown boobies are great divers and are also very skilled at snatching a bait in midair.
When the birds start to react to the schools, so should you. Many people tend to charge a school before finding out what the school is doing. Some fishermen think that the faster they can push throttle and tear through the middle of a school, the more chance they’ll have for a hookup.
You should be patient and watch their movements before running through a pile of birds. If you time your passes and your positioning according to how the birds are reacting to the school, you will end up with a better position if you’re baiting or have a more successful pass if you’re trolling. However, those of you who are cut off by these boats know that isn’t the best way to fish a school, but it could be the best way to scare the heck out of one and make the school (and the bait the fish are chasing) sound.
The fish will only stay down longer or move farther off thanks to you trying to run them over with your propeller. Many experienced fishermen will slow their boats down to an idle near the resting birds. When the birds sit down, they’re not just resting. They’re waiting for their next opportunity at a bait escaping from a hungry mahi mahi and can often be seen sticking their heads under the water to look for their prey.
All three of these species (boobies, ‘iwas and sooty terns) can be found working schools of fish associated with rubbish or FADs. When you come across a pile of birds that returns to a particular location over and over, chances are good that there is something in the water that is holding the pile’s attention. When you see birds flying back and forth to one particular spot and assume there is rubbish in the area, stay alert and slow things down.