Written by Pascal Blais – Aventure Chasse & Pêche magazine
You have surely heard the magnificent call of the common loon during a fishing trip with an outfitter. The captivating and relaxing sound sloughs away our everyday worries and reminds us that there is more to fishing than just catching fish. Yet, some anglers wonder if this fish-eating bird could help them out on the water. If you see a loon on a lake, does that mean there is fish there? Could this bird possibly give us clues as to the whereabouts of fish? Let’s find out.
You can easily tell when a loon is hunting. When hungry, a loon will swim at the surface and submerge its head under the water now and then, peering for potential prey. A loon can sometimes travel more than 120 metres (400 feet) under water. Once it has found a plentiful spot, it will dive several times within a small radius. That is where it is feeding. It catches most of its prey under water. Do not be fooled if you see that a loon appears empty-handed when it comes back up to the surface, because it swallows most of its prey down below.
If you see a loon feasting, you have located a feeding area for predatory fish. When you’ve ascertained there is forage fish somewhere thanks to a loon on the hunt, I suggest you make your way towards the bird so that it moves to another area and leaves its quarry alone. The loon is quite wild and is easily scared. Another reason to head towards a loon is to find fish on your sonar. After all, wherever there is a meal, there is bound to be predatory fish. All you have to do at this point is cast your fishing rod.
Spotting a loon nest is also a good sign for anglers. It is a very good indication that the area is bountiful, since loons will always nest in areas that are teeming with crustaceans and small fish. There’s a simple explanation for that. Chicks are unable to feed themselves in their first two months. Their parents must therefore supply them with food. In order to keep the time chicks spend on their own to a minimum and for parents to waste as little energy as possible, loons will usually build their nests in areas that abound with food. Chicks normally hatch around the end of June in southern Quebec.
You should count your lucky stars when you spot a loon on the water body you are fishing in. You know right away that the lake is healthy and that it has an ample supply of small fish. In addition, by analyzing the behaviour of this bird species, you can find the exact spot where forage fish gather. Since forage fish are eaten by larger fish, it is a good idea to search such areas carefully. You will be dealing with very active predatory fish, as you will be right in their pantry. Hold your rod tightly—you could be in for a ride!