Clues To Finding Active Pelagics
One of the biggest factors while kayak fishing is the ability to utilize your senses. When chasing pelagics off La Jolla, knowing how to use your sight and hearing can make a day of paddling end with the happy paddle while heading homeward.
The use of your eyes is the most obvious form of finding feeding fish, however a little fine-tuning of this sense is what will put you above all the other anglers in the area. We all know to look for structure (including kelp, both on the surface and on our meters) and the infamous boiling fish, however, even the subtlest of disturbances on the water can often indicate the presence of active, pelagic fish. Paying attention to your immediate surroundings as well as what is going on in the distance can and will make you more successful.
Terns, gulls, pelicans, cormorants, and other seabirds can often be a great indicator of what is going on around you. Flocks or schools of birds can be a good indication that a bait school is present and can in turn lead to yellowtail, bonito, barracuda, and other local species. Being able to read these bird schools can mean the difference in catching a yellowtail, and making a long, sprinted paddle for nothing. When looking for bird schools a kayak angler is at a disadvantage due to their height on the water and ability to quickly reach these birds. Often times anglers will chase after a bird school only to find that the birds were simply feeding on a carcass or trash. This is never a fun experience and luckily with a little training, can be avoided.
While watching a group of birds beginning to work look for picking birds. By picking what you are looking for are birds that swoop to the water repeatedly while appearing to grab or pick at bait that is moving below the surface. These picking birds are the first sign of good things to come. As the bait below these birds gathers closer to the surface the birds will start to pick at the water at a steadier pace. Also more and more birds will tend to gather. At this point you should already be moving towards the birds.
Hopefully bait will start to appear popping the surface indicating that there may be fish below that is pushing them to the surface. However if the birds slow their actions or even begin to sit on the water this is a good indication in most situations that nothing is going to happen, or at least not immediately. If the birds begin to sit you may want to look in the area for other schools, if none are found it doesnt hurt to check the original school anyways. Remember that a birds eyesight is far better than ours. With this said, whenever possible try and read the birds actions, they are much more aware of what is going on below the surface than you are.
Your other main indicator of pelagic fish is the bait that they are feeding on. Watching the behavior of bait schools can often lead you to fantastic fishing. While in a lot of cases, if bait is up on the surface there will be birds on them. However in some cases you must read the actions of the bait ball due to the lack of birds.
Bait is fairly easy to read, as they are pretty simple fish. In many cases you will know right away that there are fish pushing the bait. When undisturbed and safe, schools of bait swim around in a rather calm, smooth manner. They do not have many fast, sudden actions unless there is trouble. With this said if you see bait jumping out of the water in large numbers or making a lot of quick, jerky moves then chances are there are predators beneath. Knowing that there are likely pelagic fish below the bait, you can now make a decision on how to fish the area.
With a little experience and practice along with the tips given the average angler should easily be able to learn to ready their surroundings. Anglers should always take advantage of birds, bait, porpoise, sea lions, and other marine life to help in the locating of active fish. Closely watch and listen for disturbances or anything unusual while on the water and you can become a more successful angler.