Strong wind makes for rough water and tough fishing. This guide reveals the strategies pro anglers use to successfully adapt to fishing windy days.
I first started fishing with my dad in the 1990's and, back then, we always fished out of a small aluminum flatboat.
Man, that thing could not take a wave to save its life, and if you got into any kind of chop at all you could count on your teeth rattling out before you got back to the launch.
No, she wasn't the exactly what we call "state of the art", being unable to comfortably cross large bodies of water in a chop, but she got the job done and – most important – we learned how to make up for her shortcomings when fishing windy days.
In the years since, I've learned to combine that knowledge with other tricks picked up along the way, and that's what you'll find in this guide to fishing strong wind.
How To Fish Windy Conditions
Wind speed is the first thing I look for when planning any fishing trip, and that's because it will dictate where and how you will be able to fish.
When you have a light wind (or none at all) you can pretty much drive your boat anywhere and position on fish any way you like.
But a strong wind? Forget it!
This doesn't mean it's impossible to catch fish, you'll just need to make the right compromise, and this guide shows you exactly how to do that in windy conditions
However, before we get started, I must make it clear that this article is not about fishing a west wind.
Nor is about how wind affects water levels.
This guide is strictly about how to adapt to fishing in strong wind from any direction.
It's a long one, so I've included the menu below to jump to your favorite part.
How strong is a "strong wind" for inshore fishing?
In the realm of inshore fishing, a 15 to 20 knot wind or higher is generally considered to be a tough wind to fish in.
This is not a textbook "gale force" wind but usually is strong enough for NOAA to issue a small craft advisory.
What makes strong wind so bad?
Strong wind makes fishing difficult for a variety of reasons, and I'd say these are the most relevant:
Casting Becomes Difficult
For starters, it is difficult to fan cast.
If you have seen the Elements of Effective Fishing then you know it is ideal to fan cast around your fishing spot to check for hungry trout or reds.
It is easy to cast with the wind to your back, more difficult with it blowing on your side and downright frustrating casting straight into it.
Casting in windy conditions creates wind knots, backlashes and more that negatively impact your effectiveness, because time spent picking those out is time spent not having a line in the water, which is time you certainly cannot catch a fish.
I know that seems obvious and not that big of a deal, but it really adds up to negatively impact your fishing fun.
Water Becomes Dirty
A strong wind can cause water to become dirty, especially if it's a north, northwest, or west wind (here in Louisiana).
That's because those winds push water out of the marsh and, once water levels become low enough, waves created by strong wind begin churning up the soft mud that makes up most of our coast.
This turns the water to "chocolate milk", ruining what was once good fishing.
Boat Positioning Is Tougher
As mentioned earlier, boat positioning is easy when the wind isn't blowing, giving you the advantage to cast from whatever angle you like.
But that all changes when fishing windy days!
You are left with fewer options, and sometimes stuck with pretty bad ones, like having to cast into the wind or risk blowing into a bridge or rock pile.
Strong Wind Can Kill The Tide
We all know that wind affects water levels in the marsh, meaning that – depending on the direction it blows from – it will cause water levels to rise or to fall.
This concept goes one step further: wind can cancel out an opposing tide altogether, causing a pseudo neap tide not predicted in your tide app.
Imagine launching your boat thinking you will have that "perfect" tide to catch speckled trout, but instead arrive to your honey hole only to see that water that is dead still.
That is an entire blog post in and of itself, and I can tell you that the relationship of wind and tide is covered in great detail in my Mastering The Tide seminar.
Is there anything good about a strong wind?
Yes! As always, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, and fishing windy days is certainly a "double-edged sword".
Consider these advantages when the wind is blowing really hard:
- no bugs to bite you
- water will move during neap tide
- bait can be moved to predictable locations
- more room to fish because fair-weather fishermen stay home
Prepare Your Tackle For Fishing Windy Conditions
Many anglers targeting speckled trout and redfish use the Inshore Rig, because a weighted cork is easily attached to make casting into heavy wind easier.
A cork that's pretty heavy is the VersaMaxx coastal fishing cork, but I'll admit that it's not my favorite because it sits so low in the water.
However, because the heaviest part of a popping cork rig is usually the cork itself, that part tends to lead through the air during a cast, causing the leader line to tangle on the main line.
If it applies to your situation, throwing a drop shot is a great choice, because drop shot rigs lead through the air by the sinker and don't tangle as easily.
This is especially a better choice than a carolina rig, if you are fishing the bottom of the water column, for the same reason mentioned above.
Spinning Tackle For Windy Conditions
Some braided fishing line is a nightmare in heavy wind, especially in comparison to monofilament and fluorocarbon, both of which don't tend to fold over onto themselves.
Braided line performs best on spinning tackle when there is no twist in it, but even when spooled correctly, it can become twisted from use over time.
You should regularly make time to remove twist from braided line to eliminate tangles from wind knots.
Adapting Casting Tackle To Windy Conditions
Try cranking down on the spool tension knob and braking system in order to prevent line overrun.
There is no set formula for this, so experiment to learn what works best for you and keep making quality casts without getting backlash.
To learn more about baitcasters and their braking systems, check out How to Select a Great Inshore Baitcaster.
You should also consider a reel sporting Daiwa's Air Brake System. It's made specifically for throwing light baits and strong wind.
Try This Simple Casting Technique
Of course, you can always use better casting techniques!
Instead of using an overhead cast, try a roll cast, which is like swinging the rod more like a golf club to keep the bait flying low across the water, where strong wind can't grab it.
Locate Fishing Spots Protected From Strong Wind
Being equipped to battle strong wind may not be enough, so you have to find a "less windy" location.
Seriously, find a spot where the wind is not blowing as hard, even if it is not somewhere you fished before.
It's better than duking it out in a hard blowing wind at your favorite fishing spot, right?
Now, anyone who has been to Louisiana's marsh knows that it's pretty wide open, because it's constituted mostly of spartina grass, which is low lying and doesn't do much to block strong wind.
However, there are places in the marsh offering protection on windy days, places worth casting a line.
Below you'll find examples, and what they look like on Google Earth.
Spoil Serves As High Ground To Block Heavy Wind
A glance at any map of Louisiana's coast reveals the numerous man-made canals criss-crossing the marsh.
These canals usually have "spoil", or piles of dirt, built up on each side that are good for fishing windy days.
This spoil was created when soil was removed to make a waterway deeper or create a new one.
Not all dead end canals will have tall spoil, but some do and those that do will have varying spoil heights.
In my fishing trip reviews I talk a lot about the great fishing of the MRGO and its versatility, especially south of the Rock Dam.
One unique trait is the southwest shoreline of the MRGO: it has really tall spoil.
It is so tall that you can get completely out of 15 knot winds from the south, west and southwest to sight fish redfish in perfectly smooth water.
Hide Behind Man Made Structure
Tall structure is good for hiding from tough winds.
Man-made structures like natural gas platforms, docks, locks, flood walls and levees are all great examples.
In fact, many of the locations described in this guide are featured in my fishing trip reviews so you may see exactly how to fish them.
Rock jetties, like the widely popular (perhaps too popular) MRGO Lock Rocks, will definitely keep you protected from wave action created by strong wind, though it will still affect your casting.
Hide Behind Roseau Cane
Natural structure like roseau cane, which is found throughout the marsh, especially in places like Venice.
Finding roseau before your fishing trip is pretty easy because it stands out on Google Earth, like in the graphic below.
Plan A Better Route To Your Fishing Spots During Strong Wind
You should avoid every open body of water and take the smaller, more "protected" bodies of water instead.
This could make for a longer trip, but virtually guarantees a safer and more comfortable trip.
Good Example Of Avoiding Rough Water On Windy Conditions
If you wanted to fish Bayou Biloxi (and you're launching from Hopedale Marina) on a day there is a strong west wind, you would not take Lake Borgne to get there, not if you enjoy a smooth and dry ride, anyway.
Instead, try running Bayou LaLoutre and go through Stump Lagoon to get there.
"Lee" Water For Fishing Windy Days
In some cases, you can use larger bodies of water to get from point A to point B, but you want to stay in the "lee of the land" and not get blasted by big waves.
Go Island Hopping To Avoid Strong Wind
Islands, or broken up marsh, offer refuge from rough seas and high wind.
Unfortunately in this scenario, you're not completely avoiding rough conditions, you're just enduring them less.
The graphic below shows such a scenario, and it is clear that the red route is going to be a butt whoopin' going head first into rough seas, whereas the green route uses shorter legs across rough water.
Eventually, you end up a lot closer to the lee of the land Spot B sits in, so when you make that last leg of the trip you are crossing water not nearly as rough as the western half of the red route.
And – if you're smart about it – you'll take time to fish a few extra spots on the way, like what you see marked along the green route.
Get More Tips For Fishing Windy Days + See How I Do It
Just because a strong wind is forecast doesn't mean that it won't be worth going fishing.
It's almost always worth going, and now that you've finished this guide you have the knowledge you need for fishing windy days, so you have fun catching fish when everyone else chickens out.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and, if you did, please consider subscribing to my newsletter to receive more fishing guides like it.
If you'd like to see how I plan for wind conditions, then all you have to do is watch my fishing trip reviews.