Binoculars aren’t often thought of as important tools for fishing, but they can be just as useful for anglers on the water as they are in the woods for hunters.

Looking for diving birds is one of the more common uses of binoculars on the water. While this can be done with the naked eye, it can be done at greater distances with a pair of binoculars. And sometimes, seeing a big group of birds at a distance without the aid of binoculars can be deceiving. Seeing that same group of birds can reveal much more, including the species of bird, and whether they are diving at baitfish, or just flying around looking.

Anglers can also use binoculars to help locate tailing redfish. And it’s not always the tails of the fish that will help them spot the best fishing holes.

“Sometimes, you don’t have to see the tails to know the redfish are in the grass,” said Dennis Hankin of Morehead City. “A lot of times, you will just see the grass swaying around, and it looks much different than when it’s just the wind or current pushing the grass. Seeing that tells me the redfish are in there, even if I can’t see their tails above the surface.”

Hankin said he doesn’t even have to be far away from the grass to gain an advantage with binoculars.

“Even when you’re fairly close to the grass, it can still be very helpful to glass the weeds. Sometimes, using binoculars is as much about seeing things more clearly as it is about seeing things from a distance,” he said.

“In much the same way, it’s just as useful for spotting baitfish, either from a distance, or even fairly close. This is especially true when the water is a little bit rough, which makes it tougher to distinguish if you’re spotting a nervous school of baitfish disturbing the surface, or just a rough patch of water,” Hankin said.

Another good reason to have a pair of binoculars onboard is to check for shallow water in unfamiliar areas. Hankin will often look at the water in the upcoming flats as he idles through creeks, trying to spot the bottom.

“You’re not going to see the bottom unless it’s really shallow, so it’s good to have as much advance notice as possible. Even in familiar waters, you can see if the tide is moving in or out faster than you expected by glassing the areas and seeing if certain grass lines or oyster points are exposed. That can be a big help in navigating,” he said.