It’s been a long week. Kids were sick. Boss was a jerk. Dog puked on the carpet.
And it’s only Monday.
But the countdown is already on for the weekend. You’re going fishing with your buddy.
As the week unfolds, it’s perfect every day. You look outside and the flags are laying down, the trees are still. Sun is shining. Everything looks so nice!
You wake up Saturday and everything changes. Flags are sticking straight out and flapping like crazy. Trees are shaking and leaves are falling off. Birds are struggling to make any kind of headway. Yes, it’s our old nemesis, the wind. More fishing plans have been ruined, changed or just plain canceled due to the wind than any other reason.
We have hurricanes, tornadoes, nor’easters, waterspouts and a host of other situations with big winds that mess up our days. Most of the time, however, it’s just day to day. What can we do about it besides just stay home? I’ve always joked that when it’s cold, get a sweater; when it’s rainy, get a jacket; and when it’s windy … get on the couch. But we can still get out there — if we are flexible and willing to change. Let’s look.
First of all, I am not advocating going out in dangerous conditions. You have to determine what kind of days are OK for you and your equipment, boat and even personal health. As we get older, some of us don’t feel comfortable in a boat that’s rocking too much, even though just a few years earlier, we did it with no problem. If you have a huge boat, you can get out on days that a lot of other people would not. I have a small skiff that I use to fish ultra-shallow, but the trade-off is that I have to make adjustments on days that may not bother others.
Kids on board?
Let’s say you have a nice-sized center-console boat that’s around 22 feet or so. You had planned to run offshore a little ways to fish for the spring bonito run at the artificial reefs in 50 to 70 feet of water. This necessitates a run of somewhere in the 5- to 20-mile range to reach fishing spots that are ranging from a mile to up to 10 miles offshore. The forecast had been calling for southwest winds less than 15 knots all week. You get to the dock and it’s blowing over 20.
If you were going by yourself, you’d probably give it a chance, but you’ve got small kids with you. Bonito trolling is a fun and easy way to get some kids a chance to tug on some fast swimmers. But you get to the inlet and it’s just too rough to bring them out there. What are you going to do?
Always make sure you have a backup plan in mind. Some light spinning rods rigged with bottom rigs and some kind of bait. Fresh shrimp is best but is expensive to just have on hand.
A good option is the Fish Bites bait. It comes in a zip-top bag, doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and as long as you don’t open the bag, it stays good for a long time.
Find a nice channel near the inlet. In the spring the bottom of some side channels can seemingly be paved with panfish. The kids will be glad to have some fish to catch and a much better time than getting bounced around in the waves all day.
Feet in the water?
Maybe you are a surf fisherman. You had planned to cast for trout in the calm surf on a cool November morning. You know that if it gets too rough the water gets dirty and it’s very difficult to wade deep in the big waves to make the long casts necessary. Being in the water and fishing right as the sun comes up is very important. It’s always when the trout seem to bite best.
If you get to the water in the morning and the surf is too rough and you have to make alternate plans, the best part of the day is already gone. When you check the forecast the night before, it shows that the wind will shift and be pushing waves into your face in the spot you were going. Our coast is varied. Some beaches face south. Others face straight east. There are others that are someplace in between. With a knowledge of the wind and background on different beach directions, you can alter your plans the night before to be at the spot with the most favorable conditions right at dawn.
There are a bunch of ways to figure out the wind and weather for the day you’re planning on. Gone are the days of listening to the NOAA weather radio and waiting for the forecast to start over and the repeating voice to come back to what you want to hear. We can use the internet in a variety of ways.
I like a few apps on my smartphone. With the ones I’m using, I feel pretty confident in what conditions I’m going to see. Fish Weather is my current favorite. It’s uncannily accurate in predictions of temperatures, precipitation and wind. You can dial it in to a very specific place and see what the conditions are going to be at any time of the day. I even use it to figure out what time I need to be crossing a large body of water in my small skiff in order to get back to the ramp most comfortably, even to the point where I’ve crossed safely, put the boat on the trailer, look outside 30 minutes later and seen whitecaps on the surface I just calmly cruised across.
For more general marine weather forecasts I like one called Buoycast. You can pick the various marine forecast zones and see what the wind should look like that day. The best part though is the ability to check the offshore buoys in real time to see what the winds and wave heights are right now.
So, with a little knowledge and planning, and conditions somewhat less than a gale, we can save a fishing day and get out there and enjoy ourselves safely and maybe even still catch a couple fish.