Fishing With Wind Speed and Direction
The interaction of the wind, water, and terrain radically change fish behavior. Learn to read the wind, water, and land to maximize your chances.
by Bill Bernhardt
A strong wind is a weather condition that can make many anglers uncomfortable because trying to maneuver a boat in a strong wind is not only difficult, in the case of engine failure, a strong wind can place you in serious danger rather quickly! Plus, strong winds also create large waves which can swamp an angler’s boat and thus, it is often simply not practical or safe to fish on days when the wind is blowing.
Although some anglers would undoubtedly disagree, most experienced fishermen firmly believe that wind can either positively or negatively affect the quality of the fishing on any given day depending on its speed and direction as well as the surrounding geographical terrain. But how exactly is the wind working with the water?
Fishing With the Wind
Of course, the reason for this belief is that both the direction and the strength of the wind as well as the geographical terrain over which it blows causes smaller fish to hold in different areas in any given body of water because, as the wind blows across the water’s surface, the friction between the two mediums causes the surface of the water to start moving in the direction of the wind which, in turn, causes both waves and currents to form.
Therefore, both the distance which the wind blows over the water (called fetch) and its duration, as well as the surrounding geographical terrain, will either increase or decrease the size of the waves as individual peaks join together to form larger waves.
Therefore, without wind, there are no waves and often no currents and thus, wind most definitely does affect fish feeding behavior because it also affects their mentality as well as the behavior of their prey.
It should be noted that wind affects fishing feeding behavior differently at different locations due to the extent of the fetch as well as the geographical terrain. For instance, most weather travels from west to east and thus, the western shores of large land masses such as continents and large islands most often experience inshore winds whereas, the eastern shores most often experience offshore winds.
Also, large land masses tend to slow the wind and, geographical features such as tall hills or mountains can block the wind entirely whereas, valleys, troughs, and depressions can funnel wind into a tight stream which creates eddies as the wind disperses out across the surface of the water. Plus, precipices can cause sudden downdrafts as the air rushes down their face and then out across the water. Consequently, food sources on the leeward side of large land masses are often pushed out to sea while food sources on the windward side are often pushed inshore and, the same is true of smaller bodies of water as well.
Danger from Above
Also, due to a law of physics called Snell’s Law, fish see the surface world through a small, round, window on the water’s surface and, the size of said window is dependent on the fish’s depth in the water column. When the surface of the water is calm, fish can see the surface world clearly through their window but, when the water’s surface is broken by wind generated waves, the fish’s window is obscured and thus, they see the surface world far less clearly.
Therefore, fish tend to automatically assume that if they cannot see out, then avian predators cannot see in which, in turn, makes them far less sensitive to movement above the surface.
In addition, wind can often help energize a quiet fishery and, especially so if it is preceded by calm, warm, weather because undisturbed water often suffers from lack of free oxygen and thus, stagnant water is inhospitable to fish. However, because wind causes waves to form and, when waves break, they trap oxygen in the water, a strong wind can often significantly raise the levels of free oxygen available to fish which also increases their willingness to feed.
In addition, structures and/or objects such as bridge pilings, jetties, and submerged timber can also cause a significant disturbance of the water’s surface when the wind blows which can also increase the ambient levels of free oxygen in the water.
It should be noted that currents flowing in the same direction as the wind tend to move faster and create only small waves due to the cooperating forces while, currents moving in the opposite direction of the wind tend to move slower and create larger waves due to the opposing forces. Consequently, wind blowing around sand bars, points, and jetties can create eddies, current lines, and even rip currents in the sea as well as in large, freshwater, lakes.
Therefore, you should keep an eye out for both points and bays in the shoreline as well as under water terrain features such as humps, depressions, and old creek beds because these types of terrain features create eddies in, and/or shelter from, currents and thus, bait fish often congregate in these eddies in order to escape the incessant pull of the current.
The Right Approach
It should also be noted that due to their anatomical shape, fish will almost always face into the current. As a result, you will need to position yourself so that you can cast your lure into the wind in order to retrieve it in the direction that the fish are facing because fish are often reluctant to chase a lure which approaches them from behind.
Plus, windy days are often excellent days to fish top-water or shallow running lures. Therefore, when fishing in windy conditions, it is important to note both the direction and the speed of the wind as well as any currents it generates and position yourself accordingly and, it is also often helpful to use larger and/or more brightly colored lures as well as lighter lines.
Wind and Shore
Plus, currents created by wind can improve fishing conditions in other ways as well. For instance, downwind shorelines bear the brunt of currents; bringing with them large quantities of phytoplankton and zooplankton which accumulates near the shoreline. Therefore, small baitfish will often congregate near these windblown shorelines to take advantage of the concentration of food which, in turn, draws in the larger predator species.
Currents can also affect fishing conditions when they are caused by an angled or parallel wind direction. For instance, currents caused by winds that strike the shoreline at a 45 degree angle or, winds that blow parallel to the shoreline can also significantly increase feeding activity by creating currents and eddies in the water. Therefore, fishermen should look for both points and small bays along windblown shorelines where calmer water is present on the opposite side of such obstructions because the eddies in the current created by such obstacles draw in the bait fish’s food sources as well as bait fish looking for shelter from strong currents which, in turn, also draws in larger fish. Therefore, predator fish species will often lay in wait in these eddies as well so that they can shelter from the current while waiting to ambush bait fish as they are swept past by the current.
The Bottom Line
Consequently, when fishing on windy days, it is important to keep the various factors mentioned above foremost in your mind. Therefore, when choosing a spot to fish from on windy days, make sure that you take the direction of the wind into consideration because the wind blows vital food sources towards the windward shore and this action attracts the bait fish that feed on them which, in turn, attracts larger predator species. Thus, when fishing on windy days, the wise fisherman will position himself on or near the windward shore.
At the same time, it is important to not forget the fact that fishing in the wind is inherently more dangerous than fishing in calm weather and, there will likely fewer fishermen around to help you should you get in trouble.
Plus, wind generated waves can become large enough to swamp or even capsize your boat or push it into an obstacle that may cause it damage. Therefore, you should always make sure your motor is in top operating condition and that your emergency equipment and anchor are sufficient for the conditions.
But, as long as your equipment is up to the task and you are aware of how wind affects the movement of water as well as the movement of bait fish, then fishing on windy days can be some of the most productive days you can choose to fish on!