The key to finding baitfish schools is to locate areas where two different currents collide (“current breaks”). Baitfish tend to accumulate along current breaks because current breaks cause changes in water temperature and algae content. As a result, they can often be located by studying Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and chlorophyll maps. These maps can be found on websites like Fishtrack.com, Terrafin.com, and FishDope.com.
You can also consult on-line fishing reports from websites like 976Bite.com or FishDope.com. While these sites focus on popular game fish like tuna and yellowtail, makos in particular hang out in similar areas. That means these websites can be an easy way to determine zones of active fish. By combining this information with SST and chlorophyll data, you’ll be able to home in quickly on areas that are likely to hold sharks.
More useful tips for locating baitfish
Once you’re on the water, keep a constant lookout for signs of bait or feeding fish. Sharks and bait are constantly on the move, so you could encounter fish well away from your selected spots. These signs include: baitfish fleeing along the surface, “nervous” water, large dark areas just under the water’s surface, boils and splashing, and of course, bird activity.
But not just any bird activity. You’re looking for terns or shearwaters, which are active baitfish hunters, and very useful “eyes in the sky”. When they start forming up and picking at something on the surface, that’s a sign that bait is being pushed to the surface.
Another thing to look out for are unexpected calm spots in rippled water. These are caused by baitfish schools being attacked below the surface. The wounded baitfish release oils that float to the surface and change the surface tension of the water, resulting in a patch of smooth water, even if surrounding waters have wind ripples.
I’ve got my spots, and I’m ready to go. What’s next?
In the second part of this series, we discuss what to do once you reach a likely spot: positioning the boat and setting up a good chum slick.