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How Wind Affects Fish

There's an old saying that nothing screws up a day of fishing like the wind. But that's not really true. Wind can be a very good thing for fishing, especially if you like catching big fish.

by Craig Ritchie
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Windy weather stirs up fish and can spur feeding activity.

There's an old saying that nothing screws up a day of fishing like the wind. But that's not really true. Wind can be a very good thing for fishing, especially if you like catching big fish. That's because of all the environmental things that happen above the waves, nothing else has such a direct impact on both fish location and behavior. In a way, a good wind is like ringing the dinner bell. The best winds are the ones that precede storms. Fish have no idea how long a bout of inclement weather will last, so most of them begin feeding heavily with the first sign of a blow. The good stiff wind, accompanied by dark clouds, rain and cooling temperatures, is usually all it takes to start most fish eating like there's no tomorrow. As far as they're concerned, there may not be.

Wind triggers fish by moving water and creating current. Moving water means moving algae and plankton, so small fish waste no time in positioning themselves straight in the path of the current so they can effortlessly intercept this parade of food drifting by. The rolling waves offer a very real level of protection from overhead predators like birds, giving these small fish the chance to pig out without continually scanning the skies for danger.

It's pretty easy to understand that when small fish gather, big fish won't be far behind and that's precisely what happens when the wind blows. All these care-free, happy little bait fish feeding merrily in relatively open water present just too good an opportunity to pass up. So bass, walleye, pike, muskie and even lake trout also move into the wind where they feed like wild.

Avoid sandy shorelines when fishing in wind a sediments can quickly discolor the water.

Where To Fish

With the wind blowing across an entire lake, it helps to narrow your choice of locations down to a handful of obvious spots. The best are places where the wind blows full-force onto quality, hard structure like points, reefs or saddles, because chances are fish are likely near these areas to begin with. What the wind does is haul them off bottom and out of the cover, and put them up into relatively shallow, open water where you can catch them fairly easily.

Wind-induced waves pounding against a shoreline provide a number of bonus food items for predatory fish as well. Waves dislodge crayfish, frogs, newts and all sorts of other creatures that may ordinarily be more difficult to catch.

Wind also cuts light penetration while stirring up sediment, clouding the water which in many cases gives predatory fish a big feeding advantage. Big fish feel more secure invading shallow water when wave action and sediment afford them a little cover. They also benefit by being able to feed more effectively. Most predatory fish stalk prey from below. In turbid water, they can see the shadows of small fish silhouetted in the sunlight far more easily than the bait fish can see them approaching from below.

That said, too much turbidity is not a good thing. Stick with rocky shorelines when fishing in wind, which tend to discolor less than sandy shores do.

Other Considerations

Windy conditions are when fish tend to hunt actively, so use fast-moving lures and cover a lot of water. This is not the time for finesse presentations. Big spinnerbaits, jerk baits or lipless rattling crankbaits are all top choices when the wind blows.

Finally, it shouldn't need stating but no fish is worth putting yourself in an unsafe position. If it's too rough, wait and fish another day. Or just stay in the harbor itself - I've had some pretty good fishing on rough days without ever leaving the marina.

Instead of cursing the wind, take a more positive approach and consider how the wind will affect fish location and behavior. Quickly fish big, flashy lures over spots where the wind blows up on good solid structure and you may be amazed at how good fishing can be.

Always play it safe in windy weather. You can sometimes find good fishing right in the harbor.

Author Craig Ritchie
Craig Ritchie
About the author:
Over a near 40-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, Craig Ritchie has fished all over the globe for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The author of The Complete Guide To Getting Started In Fishing, he has written thousands of articles for magazines, websites and newspapers worldwide, appeared as a guest on several television fishing programs and won numerous awards for his writing and photography. He lives in the Great Lakes region where great fishing is as close as his own back yard.

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