Many saltwater species, especially swordfish, marlin, and sailfish, love to feed off of large, dense schools of fish, often refereed to as bait pods. These bait pods can contain thousands and even millions of little morsels, giving the predators a chance to eat their fill in one sitting.
These bait pods are magnets for activity, and seeing predators, including fish and birds, pick apart a pod is one of the most impressive sights in the water.
Bait Pods: The Ocean’s Food Truck
When predators find schools of baitfish, they will try to eat as many as they can. However, because of schooling instincts and quick reflexes, catching a single fish can often be a challenge. Fortunately for the predators, they have developed some interesting ways of picking apart the pod.
Let’s look at the sailfish as an example. Sailfish have unique physical adaptations and behaviors that make them a prime menace for bait pods. Sailfish travel in groups, and they use their numbers to drive a school upwards, where the surface acts as a barrier. The large “sail” on the back of the fish is used to corral schools in a specific direction. Once the pod is in place, sailfish slash through the dense mass of fish, using their long bill to injure and disorient the fish.
The sailfish will the pick off the lone stragglers, slowly and steadily eliminating the pod until there is nothing left.
Tips for Fishing Near Schools
There are many ways that you can improve your catch near bait pods. One of the most effective ways is to employ a large dredge, similar to an “Alabama umbrella” used in bass fishing.
These rigs use stiff wires branching off of a single line, each with decoy bait swimming on the end. Trolling these artificial schools behind a boat, you will attract predators like sailfish. What you need to actually catch the prize, however, is a straggler. Behind the dredge, trail a single swim lure. This will mimic a single fish separated from the school; the one that sailfish are looking for. It should land a strike from a hungry, aggressive sailfish.
Finding the Schools
It sounds fun, but one of the biggest challenges you will have is actually finding the bait pods. Your best indicator will be birds. If you see your feathered friends diving into the water, it’s a safe bet that a pod is nearby. You may also see fins from sailfish or marlin breaking the surface.
While it can be difficult to spot bait pods without the help of other animals, you should keep your eye out for a shiny, metallic color in the water. Bait pods will be darker in tone, and an experienced eye will be able to find them quickly. If you see the fins of sailfish cutting the surface, you know you’re in the right spot!
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