Follow Your Feathered Friends

There was no question in Capt. Tom Rowland's mind that a brief side mission was in order. We'd just left Key West Harbor with intentions of dashing out the Boca Grande Channel and heading for the bountiful flats of the Marquesas.

That plan would eventually come to fruition, but when we spotted a massive cloud of shrieking gulls and terns with several diving pelicans mixed in, we knew something cool was afoot.

Typically, such bird gatherings indicate bait schools driven topside by predators such as jack crevalle. Our fishing buddy John Kushnerick would nab a nice one shortly after Rowland idled into range.

We got that one off the hook and back into the water quickly and lined up for another shot. Rowland noted that these noisy aggregations of feathered fish finders often point to a mix of predators below and a couple of the surface pops he observed had him thinking that the jacks were keeping company with one of the most aggressive nearshore denizens.

Sure enough, Rowland fired a jig toward the fracas and barely got his reel engaged when he came tight on a chunky bonito. We'd play with a couple more of these shiny bullets before heading west, but the experience reinforced the timeless angling axiom: birds equal fish.

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