How to Use Radar to Find the Bite

Auto-tuning equals much greater performance

It’s no secret that seabirds can point the way to great fishing. Our avian friends can locate schools of bait from great distances, and larger birds like frigates will actually shadow large individual game fish, such as marlin, sails and mahimahi, from above, waiting for the predator to make the first move.

In the past, captains used powerful long-pulse magnetron radars to locate birds, but recent developments in digital radars have made them well-suited to this task. With the new high-energy digital radars, proprietary software automatically makes the necessary adjustments needed to mark birds — large and small flocks and even individual birds on the water — from great distances.

In most cases, the system’s automatic bird function works just fine, but in case it needs a bit of fine-tuning, here are the manual steps. Begin by increasing the gain, and watch for small targets that move and shift erratically but either stay in the same place or move slowly in the same general direction. Birds will rarely show as a constant target but as a shifting paint splatter of dots.

You might need to adjust the sea clutter function depending on the sea conditions. It helps tremendously to practice using the radar when you encounter bird flocks visually, so you can correlate what you’re seeing with what’s being shown on the display.