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Strong winds on Okeechobee

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Depends on the boat.

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I wouldn't look at wind speed so much as visually determine whether you can handle driving a boat in those conditions.  Shallow lakes rile up much faster than deep ones, and Big O is a shallow one.

 

 

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I was wondering the same thing with the FLW tournament starting tomorrow and the recent tragedy.  Going down wind might be a smooth run in the AM, but "Victory at Sea" coming back, I wonder if they might be more conservative and postpone it.

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That lake can get down right dangerous with much less than 17mph winds. 

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Never been there ....but a South wind on KY lake at 17 keeps me off the main lake. Most smaller lakes takes more than that.

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21 hours ago, DINK WHISPERER said:

That lake can get down right dangerous with much less than 17mph winds. 

Exactly!

Size of the boat, size of the motor, driver skill, location, and more importantly than them all is just plain common sense. 

 

When that lake starts to roll be ready, and don't forget it's just fishin. 

 

 

 

Mike

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I was trying to find a very informative post on the Facebook page of the boaters looking for Nik. It suggested trails, and cuts to take on that lake when the winds are from certain directions, and what wind speed. Learn the rim ditch cuts, canals, and trails to stay off the main lake. It may take you 10 minutes or more extra but you'll get there safely and back. If I find it, I'll post it here.

 

My Brother in Law is a contract Tugboat Captain. He pushes barges from the Gulf to Atlantic through Okeechobee and back. He has said that lake is more dangerous, with bigger waves, than the Gulf or Atlantic waters, and he is in a 50' Tugboat. The waves come up faster, harder and have broken the ties to the barges before.

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At blast off this morning, the FLW guys were prohibited from running straight downlake.  

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(This is the post I was looking for: The author gave permission for it to be shared. It is his observations and experience he wanted to share. Juan Ruiz on January 8th)

 

“In the aftemath of what has happened to our fellow fisherman Nik Kayler I've put together some advise on how to travel on Lake Okeechobee.  This information is how I've run the lake for the past 15 years with little to no issues.  I've encountered first hand the strength that our Lake posssess and its something that should never be taken lightly.  I've learned the hard way of getting stuck out on that lake in big waves and never cross the middle of that lake if I can at all costs avoid it.

This is by no means an expert write up, but it'll give you some insight from my view point on how to get from A to point B.  

Please add any advise or different paths that you may have used and take to make it to and from your fishing destinations safely.  I debated on if I should or shouldn't write this up, but in the aftermath of what has happened to Nik, he would want everyone to help each other on the lake to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Rules for running from the North end of Okeechobee to South Bay and other areas on the lake:

• Any wind from the Northwest direction regardless of strength you can run the west side of the lake right down the outside grass lines with no issues.  The waves get a little bumpy in some short sections but it’s all manageable if you take your time and hug the shorelines.  You only gain 5-10 extra minutes running straight down the middle of the lake and if you break down you can’t trolling motor to either shoreline and if it’s rough out there you’re going lose time anyways versus taking the “long way”.   You DO NOT SAVE enough time worth all the risks you take running the middle of the lake and if you break down out in the middle of the lake you’re going to be in for a long day.  Make sure to avoid the mouth of Indian Prarie and make sure to run between the field goal posts at UNcle Joe's canal.

I ran a Ranger 518 for almost 12 years and NEVER felt like I had to go ACROSS THE LAKE cause of time.  Even when its glass flat I hate going across the Big O cause of all the things that can happen out of your control.  Every new lake I go to the most important information I try to gather is where and how I can safely run to places on the lake I want to check out.

• If we have a straight North wind depending on the strength (anything over 10 knots) it’s best to run the west shoreline down to & take 7 mile ditch and run the rim canal down to Clewiston.  If 7 mile canal is blocked, which happens from time to time you can take Sportsman Channel to the rim canal and head south that way.  If the wind isn’t too bad you can stay on the main lake and run straight down Observation Shoal to Clewiston and down to your spot on the south end.

It takes roughly 28-33 minutes from Dyess Ditch to Clewiston taking 7 Mile canal and add another 10 minutes from Dyess Ditch through Sportsman Canal to Clewiston.  This is based on traveling at 70 mph.

From the Hayfields to the Clewiston no wake zone it takes 8 minutes if you leave the hayfields and run the lake back.  If you have to adjust your trip back to Clewiston from the Hayfields add a few minutes to that.

• Any wind from the SW direction will make the north end of the lake rough especially out on King’s Bar.  There is absolutely no reason to run out and around King’s Bar if you’re heading south, take the pass underneath.  We tend to get the majority of the SW winds in the summer time so plan accordingly to encounter rough water on the north end from a SW wind until you get to Horse Island, after Horse Island its smooth sailing.  A SW wind and a NW wind above 10-15 KNOTS are DANGEROUS to travel to the east sides of the lake and fish, the SW waves will bring big rollers up into Grassy and Eagle Bay and make J&S impossible to fish plus it’ll be dirty.  

My rule of thumb I’ve always followed is if there is any West in the wind over 10 Knots I’m not fishing or driving on the east side of the lake.  If you’re fishing out of Clewiston and want to run to J&S across the middle of the lake and it’s not an East/SE wind and its over 10 knots it’s going to be rough for half the trip so prepare yourself.  I’ve run to J&S from Clewiston going all the way around the lake from both directions and it takes hour and 10 minutes to hour and half depending on how hard the wind is blowing so plan accordingly or fish a different area of the lake.

• Any wind from the SE direction that’s over 10 knots will make the trip from the north end to the south end rough in the middle so you should consider running the east side of the lake down or take the long way down to the south end or vice versus.  A SE wind makes running up the shoal to north shore or the north end very bumpy, but it’s manageable if you take your time.  Again if its blowing 15-20 Knots out of the SE and you want to go to northshore your best bet is to take the rim canal to 7 mile canal and head up north.

• If you want to run to the south end of the lake from the North end of the lake or vice versus and you get an East or Southeast wind over 10 Knots you should consider running the EAST SIDE OF THE LAKE to the south or north end.  I run out of the river and I aim for the tower at J&S and once I get about 1-2 miles off the grasslines at J&S I point my boat towards the WATER TOWER on the southern bank of the dike which will be north of Pahokee and Sand Cut and clear of the reef, you should end up around Canal Point.  Make sure you stay about 1-2 miles off the lake dike especially around Port Mayaca.  If the wind is strong out of the East/SE I jump into the channel at Port Mayaca and follow that around the dike until I get to Pelican.  There’s a channel marker I think its number 24 that you can jump into the channel at Canal Point and follow the channel markers to Pelican Bay or Kramer.  The dike actually blocks the wind a ton from the East or SE direction, use the dike as a barrier to help you travel.  Same idea on a West wind and the west side of the lake.

• Okeechobee water levels can’t be ignored and need to be understood so you know where you can run and what hazardous areas to avoid.  Remember the central part of the lake around Clewiston and southern ends of Okeechobee are a maze of reefs and rocks in many, many places.  When the water level is low and its rough out you have to be mindful that you can bottom out the lower unit as you come down off a wave to choose your routes wisely.  I'll write up something that explains hwo to run the lake at lower water levels.

• When the lake gets below 14 feet you really have to start paying attention to what route you plan on taking, don’t be stupid and cocky, ask someone like myself what the preferred path would be to avoid any issues, I would never not help someone with directions and that goes for a ton of guys who know every inch of this lake that would be willing to help.

• Please stop relying on wind forecasts that are provided for estimated winds on land and not on water.  The only source of wind forecast that I use is the Marine Forecast provided by NOAA and it’s called a Marine Forecast for a reason.  It’s provided in Knots format so I gauge by the forecast of 10-15 knots to me means 15-20 mph winds and ROUGH in many places on the lake.  The link to that marine forecast is above, scroll to the bottom and Lake Okeechobee has its own forecast, use it, save the link to your phone.     

• Remember the most important thing about tournament fishing is living to fish another one and getting back safe.  If you’re not sure about a travel path please, please message me and I will help you with some advice on which path to take.  

Now that the lake's grassbeds have been thinned out we can't rely on running the back trails from one end to the other end like we have in the past so stay safe everyone and see you all on the water.

Sorry for any typos it's diffcult typing this much on a phone.  Please add and share. 

Disclaimer:  This is not intended to be used as a navigation guide it's just some advise, take your safety on the water into your own hands and be prepared.

#PRAYFORNIK
#FINDNIK

http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=MLB&product=CWF&issuedby=MLB

I just thought this may have some useful information for others Fishing this Lake. If it isn’t allowed, please delete it

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Thank you for this, Fishing Cowgirl!

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Excellent! 

 I've fished with and against Juan for years, and he is spot on. 

As mostly a co angler now, I wish all boaters understood and followed this. 

 

Mike

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