In coastal bay fishing, the wind can be your friend.
Among the many reasons and excuses to cancel a bayfishing trip, wind is likely in the top three. Family commitments, work obligations and even mechanical failures are not nearly as common trip killers as a dreaded wind in high velocity or from an unwelcome direction. This is amplified even further during late winter and early spring when it seems as if it is windy virtually every day that you intend to fish. Like so many elements of the coastal environment, there is very little you can do to change the wind, but you can adjust your game plan, and more importantly your attitude, to not let the wind steal your day.
Leeward shoreline…or not
It is not hard to see that a protected shoreline provides a welcome relief from a nagging wind. Generally, it will harbor clean (or at least cleaner) water and significant protection from intrusive wave action. A leeward shoreline can be the path to a successful wade or drift even in a formidable wind. But, do not always count out a windward shoreline. Of course, a significant wind can render any shoreline unfishable with filthy water or uncomfortable wave action, but that does not mean the fish you are pursuing have left.
Ironically, the wind can actually be your friend on some shorelines. It can increase turbidity and bait movement. When wading for redfish, it can sometimes even increase the bite. The trick is to pick your spots carefully and adapt to the water conditions. If the water is off-color and choppy, you will want to use baits with considerably more flash, rattle and vibration. I have also found a larger silhouette bait seems to attract more attention. If you are a natural bait fisherman, a wind shift that blows onto a protected shoreline can be a positive scenario. It can create some welcome turbidity and baitfish activity, and more importantly will chase off most angling competition.
Stick and stay
Choices are not always an angler’s friend. We are a funny lot. Often, if the wind is light and the bay is an open canvas, we paint a little on every corner and never put the picture together. Pristine conditions lead to quick discontentment and the belief that the next spot will surely be better. Try to use windy conditions to your advantage. Pick a spot that is accommodative to the general pattern for the season, and grind it out regardless of the wind.
I have experienced a number of times when I found a small or stubborn school of fish on a shoreline and due to very few alternative choices, I stuck it out and produced an strong pattern and catch. Additionally, you can use inclement condition to learn an area in greater detail. You will find that a lack of choices makes you explore every aspect of the shoreline or cove that you are hiding in. Even if you do not unlock the pattern that day, your exploration could result in insights that will pay off for years to come.
“Just go” is a true trip saver. There are potentially countless gameplans and adaptive strategies to negate the impact of high wind, but if you do not go fishing, they undoubtedly will not work. Additionally, when you “just go” and head to the boatdock in the morning, it is funny how many times all those clever plans are unneeded…because the wind isn’t blowing. Clearly, weather forecasters try their best. They use the best technology available, but it is a very imperfect science. Through the years there are countless times I can recall when a banshee of a front stalled for a day, a screeching south wind never materialized or the torrential rain didn’t fall until the end of the day. Meeting at the boat dock in the morning eliminates the chance of a misplaced forecast and allows you to analyze the conditions at hand, not what was forecast the day or evening before your trip. You may head home upon seeing a truly ill wind or dogged rain manifest, but many times, you will have your day of fishing.
“Just go” is a lot easier said and done in the bay than in the open ocean. But, I do feel obligated to point out that even in a shallow or protected back bay or lake, excessive wind can be dangerous, particularly during winter. There are small craft warnings for a reason, and although you may intend to travel through skinny water to reach even skinnier water to fish, you cannot always predict the changes in wind and tide that may leave you with more wave than boat.
Exercise caution and respect with the wind and weather, but this winter and early spring use a few adaptive strategies to not let the wind blow your fishing opportunities.