Tips for making the most of gusty days inshore.
We have all been there. You just got a new fishing rod, or the latest and greatest lure on the market, and what do you want to do? Go fishing! What do you know? It’s blowing a sustained 15 knots (always seems to work like that, right?) but you’re like the rest of us, a stubborn fisherman, so you hook up the boat and head to the ramp. Here’s a couple tips for when you just have to go for it.
SLOW IT DOWN
Fishing areas of open flats in the wind can be difficult, at least used to be. Slowing down your drift is essential for dissecting a flat, and finding the fish. The days of drifting into the pothole full of redfish are gone, if you use today’s technology to your advantage. Electronic shallow-water anchors make stopping in the wind as easy as pushing a button. I like having the wind to my back, stopping the boat and fan casting, until I have worked the 180-degree range in front of me. I will then pick up, drift and cast for another 30 yards or so and repeat. If I catch a fish on the drift, I will stick the anchor and work the area where the fish was caught. Note: You will typically have a belly in your line when fishing like this, especially with light lures, so keep your rodtip down, allowing minimal slack, making sure you feel a strike.
There’s one surefire way to know you’re fishing an area slow: Wade! Dealing with fishing and running the boat at the same time can be a headache in the wind. Stick your anchor (the old, trusty Danforth anchor still works great) and jump out. Make sure the bottom is hard enough and wear appropriate footwear. I prefer the neoprene, zip-up style flats boots. Wading down-wind and/or down-tide is good advice, in the event your anchor pulls. Also make sure to take some form of communication with you, in case you’re separated from your boat.
Although pretty obvious, leeward shorelines will offer you the calmest water on a windy day. Also, something I love to do is go explore tight mangrove and residential areas when it’s gusting. You’d be surprised at some of the fish that call these small bodies of water home. On a recent trip, it was blowing, whitecaps were abundant throughout the Intracoastal and I thought the day was a wash. I decided to give some small feeder creeks a look and the day turned to gold, as we proceeded to jump and land a handful of juvenile tarpon on fly.
We all love the hero story of going out in the roughest of conditions and catching fish, but be smart. No fish is worth putting your life in jeopardy. If it’s blowing a gale, take advantage of the down time to run through your boat, making sure all pumps, lights and electronics are in working order. A deep cleaning and servicing of tackle will ensure that you don’t have any hiccups when you are out on the water. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine February 2018