Common on the tundra of Western Alaska and extremely cool little birds to watch, Arctic Terns are also really great fishfinders.
Much like the saltwater captains who use schools of birds to pinpoint balls of fish, pay close attention in the early season to groups of Arctic Terns hanging out above shallow flats littered with old rootballs and tundra snags. If you see them hovering and diving, there’s a great chance they’ve just shown you where a slug of downriver smolt are hiding, and with those smolt, the legendary leopard ‘bows we chase at Alaska West.
Once pinpointed, break out a small spey rod or singlehand rod, tie on a streamer (we like small white smolt patterns to start, progressing to darker olive or black sculpins) and swing in it the general vicinity of said birds and rooty snags. Proceed to hold on tight. Very tight.
Fun fact: the Arctic Tern breeds across northern Alaska and Russia and winters in Antarctica. It migrates along a winding round trip route of almost 45,000 miles a year – by far the longest regular migration of any known animal! You can read more about Arctic Terns on Wikipedia.