Fishing in the Winter Winds
Watch those northeasters.
Trip planning is an important part of successful angling. A true trip plan, though, is as rare as a real comprehensive journal. Good planning can make you more likely to become part of that 10 percent of the anglers that catch 90 percent of the fish. It will push you into the top one percent if you do it on a regular basis. A trip plan is only part of a good journal, which includes pictures and includes commentary and information about the conditions under which you succeeded or failed on a given trip. A trip plan, however, serves more than one master. You can share them with people so they know when you should have been home, and you can use them to maximize your time on the water. Most trip plans people talk about are for offshore fishing and normally contain what numbers you intend to hit on a given trip. But they can be as important inshore as they are offshore.
When we think about prevailing winds the first thing comes to our minds are our sailing days. But sheets and long runs aside, fishing is very much affected by winds. Not only are the people fishing affected by a good 20-knot nor'easter, the fish themselves alter their behavior. They do not feel the wind hitting their shoulders or making their noses run. But the geophysical and climactic changes that made your nose run while fishing in real cold weather are things the fish do feel. And what they feel they react to.
Winter Winds and Fishing the Gulf of Mexico
So what is it about the universe and its magnetic fields that tell you something about fishing? It is the prevalence of the wind. The 'prevailing wind' is wind that acts the same for seasonal periods of time. Like winter winds in Florida and on the west central coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
We are talking about Florida's west coast, but they are pretty much the same on the east coast but in reverse. The exact dock you might pick to fish, or canal that will offer some shelter from the wind is not as important as picking up a general knowledge of how to fish in windy and cold winter weather.
Pick Your Access Points Based on Prevailing Winds
The first thing to consider is that the wind blows in one direction for a while. It might be blowing from the north or it might be blowing from the southwest, but it blows in one direction. It changes from one side to another, and it very well might shift direction while you are in the water, but in most cases you are able to forecast where the wind is coming from when you leave the dock, or wade into the water, or pick a side of a pier to fish on. But the key to caching fish in the wind is to get in a place where structure provides some degree of shelter. You still have to consider fishing where the fish are, but if the wind is blowing hard from the north you know that fishing on the south side of a given dock will prove more comfortable. The fish are under the dock; it does not matter what side you are sitting in or hiding behind when you effectively skip-cast a live shrimp into their mouths.
Winter Winds on the Gulf
The idea is simple. We use Tampa bay as a rule of thumb but the concept holds true for any body of water. Pick a ramp or an access point that provides structure to hide you from the wind. Even a small structure that breaks the wind a little helps; a big house or building does a lot better.
Paddle fishing comes into play a lot in winter fishing in residential areas -- you can drop a kayak or canoe into the water close to where you are, and thereby avoid a long trip across open and windy rough water. Put your craft into the water as close to the place you intend to fish, and pick places that are not only likely to keep you sheltered but are places that fish are likely to be. The wind has very little impact on the current, although it has a lot of impact on you when you are sitting on the water.
A big lake is wide open to the wind, but bass anglers that understand how to hide and where to hide on a body of water can easily find largemouth, catfish, and tasty panfish in the winter in the wind. Starting from around November to December and all the way through the beginning of March, the prevailing winds are from the north or northeast.
As cold fronts approach however, the wind veers to the southwest as the front comes through. This southwest wind can blow very hard, and you should be careful. When the wind starts to blow from the southwest, it will shift to the north within 12-24 hours and get colder.
If this story helped you catch fish on a terrible windy day, be sure to let us know and send us some pictures if your numb fingers are able to press the button on your Smartphone.