Coastal fishermen know what it means when they see laughing gulls diving in open-water bays and along the barrier islands.

Schooling speckled trout. Right?

For freshwater fishermen, there’s a much quieter fish locator, and cleaner, too, because this one doesn’t come with the chance you’ll have to clean gull poop off your hat, or a hungry gull stealing your bait.

First, find a leafy-green tree. An oak is good. Willows are, too, and they must overhang the water in a canal or slowly moving bayou. Then look under the tree for any sign of surface activity.

If there is, it’s likely bluegill, or any of his sunfish cousins, and small catfish, and there’s the bonus that larger predators, bass and much heftier catfish are there feeding on the smaller panfish and minnows attracted by the activity falling from the trees.

It’s caterpillar time, and bluegill and catfish are there to gorge on the larvae falling from the leaves.

This is long before caterpillars begin to spin webs amidst the tree branches, and it’s difficult to know how these voracious fish can see these wormy, microscopic critters. But they do, and the concentrations of hundreds, maybe thousands of butterfly eggs hatching on the underside of the leaves provides a buffet for panfish and catfish making their first moves from winter’s deep-water haunts into the shallows.

Canals in the Verret Basin, notably in the Texaco Canal system off Grand Bayou, down to the Crackerhead Canal system off Lake Verret, and in the more southern canals off Bayous Sherman and Cheramie, are prime locations in April and into May.

A single oak tree in a Cheramie-area canals produced 20 hand-sized bluegills and enough catfish to send out invitations for a springtime Saturday afternoon fish fry.

This is light-tackle action at its best: It’s also time to think about testing out that 3-weight fly rod and the chartreuse/black No. 8 poppin’ bug that’s been drying out since last spring.

An ultralight rod and reel, or a Salter’s Jiggin’ Pole is all you need. A cane pole works, too. Rig a sliding cork for a drop of 12-18 inches with a long-shanked No. 8 hook.

Crickets and nightcrawlers are available from a number of baitshops you’ll pass on the way to Bayside in Pierre Part; Shell Beach; at the Spunky Monkey and Adam’s Landing on Belle River; at Doiron’s in Stephensville; and, at the Attakapas Landing west of Napoleonville on the east side of Lake Verret.

And if you want the best way to eat bluegill, then fry them whole. Scale and dress the fish, and you can remove the pointy dorsal fins by running a sharp fillet knife down each side this fin, then tug and the fins will fall out. If it’s a large bluegill, make one or two scores from the top to the bottom of the fish along the side.

Keep them in ice-old water, dredge in a mixture of seasoned (to taste) cornmeal and corn flour and fry at 375 degrees until golden brown. Usually when the fish floats, it’s cooked. Then serve to family and friends.

The commission

Thursday morning’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting has three items to note.

First is consideration of a resolution “.to continue support of the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority and transfer of authority to (this authority) fisheries management and data collection for the red snapper in state and federal waters off the coast of Louisiana.”

It’s a move that could have far-reaching developments for the state’s LA Creel Program, a innovative plan that’s given Louisiana offshore anglers many more days to pursue red snapper than federal management plans allow.

The next two will incorporate any final changes into the 2016-2018 resident-game and migratory bird/waterfowl hunting seasons and 2016-2017 rules and regs for wildlife management areas.

And a new member

Earlier this week, Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed Ruston Bank CEO Bill Hogan to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to replace Ruston’s Ronny Graham.

Both Graham and Hogan are longtime members of Ducks Unlimited. Hogan, an Oklahoma State graduate, moved to Louisiana in 1989. He also is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Hogan will take one of the commission’s at-large positions, one reserved for recreational outdoorsmen.

Roads reopened

The LDWF has reopened Boyce Tower Road on Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area south of Sorrento, and Poboy Road and Indian Bayou Road on the Pearl River WMA. Oil Well Road at Pearl River WMA remains closed.