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Water Birds – the Dreaded Bait Thieves?

Posted by Shaun Harrison on 18 August 2020 |

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Do the water fowl drive you mad?

Every lake I currently fish I find myself hounded by water fowl all wanting a share of the feast intended for the carp. It’s hardly surprising though as our target species shares a very similar diet to that of the bait thieves. Many years ago I learned to live with simply accepting that diving birds were going to take advantage of an easy free meal, just the same as the birds in the garden will. Yes, they are a total pain, picking lines up and every so often slipping up good and proper.

It was many years ago, way back last century when I realised how important the bird life can be and can actually speed up the capture of carp. As I touched upon above, bait robbing birds and the carp share a very similar natural diet, so, find the birds feasting upon naturals and you can be pretty sure the carp will be close by too and if they are not there at that particular time, you can be sure they will be visit.


It was many years ago I realised the water birds could actually be helpful in locating carp.

Spook those birds and the carp are instantly alerted that all is not well either. Just the same as walking into a wood and a pheasant screeching, suddenly all the rabbits, badgers, foxes, deer, poachers or whatever else knows something is amiss.

Yes I used to spook the birds away using various methods which I won’t go into here, but realised just how much disturbance I was creating in a natural environment that I was expecting a carp to remain relaxed in. These days I let them get on with it but try and actually get them to assist me in catching wary carp.

The simple act of the aforementioned birds feeding tells the carp potential food is there, particularly the surface commotion of birds squabbling over bait or gulls trying to steal the prize off another bird. This sound is natural on most waters and carries quite some way.

If you are baiting over anything with a dust/silt covering then a cloud effect will also start to form as the birds jostle for scraps, particularly if you make life difficult for them with lots of small bits of broken and crushed bait, as well as tiny seed and pellet. Feed just whole boilies and a group of tufties will wipe you out in no time. All the waters I currently fish in summer during none flood conditions are very clear, coloured water can certainly help to not only hide the terminal gear a little, but also acts as a natural stimulator for the carp’s inquisitive streak.

The amount of times I have strolled to the rod presuming it’s a bird on the end and hoping it will get itself off which they seem quite good at doing, only to see the line become real tight and no birds apparently acting a tad unnatural over the baited area. It happened to me this last Sunday. I had already been out in the rain to several bird pick ups, but then among the flock of diving birds, just a few feet down, a lovely dark mirror had been attracted in and had tried to eat just one bait too many.

25.08 16th Aug 2020

Sunday's fish had been feeding quite happily among feeding tufties.

Carp are more than happy feeding among swans, coots and tufted ducks, the three biggest pains in my own angling. The birds are usually more concerned about the carp than the other way around which again I so often use to my advantage for finding new areas to try. Watch the coots, they tell you so much, so much more than the tufties and swans, but even those give the game away for the carp at times.


Back in the day before mobile phones everyone watched the water harder and learned many subtle clues.

Next time you reach for that laser pen, tuftie torch, marker rod or decide to stand there waving your landing net around. Just take a second thought. Are you going to be spooking the carp as well?

Best wishes as always
Shaun Harrison.

About the Author: Shaun Harrison

shaun profile pic

Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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