When Is It Too Windy To Fish?

How-To Fishing Videos
When is it too windy to fish? Here’s how to answer that question based on YOU and your situation.

At what point is it too windy to be out fishing? That is a question I hear a lot of times, and I wish there was a real easy answer for you. I wish I could say, hey, at 20 miles an hour that might be a little too rough for you. At 25, you should probably get off the water. At 30 miles an hour, definitely don't be on the water. It's not that simple though. There's a lot of variables involved. We'll talk about that in a second. First of all, for you bank anglers, this is actually rather easy. It's really a matter of how well you can cast and your presentation.

Now I'm not talking about avoiding backlashes as casting in the wind, but I'm talking about your accuracy. If you want to cast right here, and you make your cast and the wind catches your lure and it lands over there, it might be a little too windy. It's hard to make accurate casts when the wind is blowing your lure around. You might have to throw over here and hopefully, it lands where you were targeting. That gets to be annoying at best, but it also makes it difficult for you to make accurate casts. 

Same thing with presentation. Say you're throwing a Senko, and you throw it out there, and the wind grabs your line, and it moves it all the way over here before it has a chance to sink next to your target. That's a problem. Now you've got to weigh it down, and now it's not giving the proper presentation that you need if you really need a slow fall.

When your line is grabbing your lure and changing where you want it to fish. That's probably a day when you don't want to be on the water or fishing from shore. Things dramatically change when you want to be on the water on a vessel. And it's, again, more than just wind speed is a consideration. 

There's actually five variables that are specific to you that's going to answer the question for you, when is it too windy to go out? And that's really what's important, right? It's for you to determine not only safe, but is it going to be a good day to fish or not, or is it going to be difficult? So, let's talk about those variables specific to your situation to help you answer this question.

So, those five are what vessel that you're going to use to get on the water, your experience, and skill level with that vessel. Okay, well those two are pretty obvious, right? Captain obvious. But there's more to it than that. There's actually a lot of detail in it that some people miss. So, we'll get a little bit further in detail on those. The other three, the orientation of the lake, the topography of the area around the lake, and the location of your boat launches. So, let's get into this. First of all, the vessel.

A lot of you guys don't know, but actually, for a long time there, I used to fish out of an inflatable raft. Now... Uh, yeah. So, that helps you get into a lot of small lakes that you can't get into with bigger boats, helps you get into shallower areas that other boats can't get into. There's a lot of advantages to doing that. However, those boats don't sit in the water, they sit on the water. There's no draft at all. And so, the slightest puff of wind comes along and you're water skiing down the lake. Boat control becomes an issue with even the slightest breeze. And I was using oars, manpower. That was it. And I had a small anchor with me and I anchored, and I would move down the shoreline, drop the anchor, fish as much as I could, then pick up the anchor, move and drop the anchor, and so on. 

The point is, the stronger the wind, even a slight wind where other boats are just fine, that was a no-go with that raft, especially if I had to go row against the wind to get back to the boat launch, it became an issue.

Now, I haven't fished out of float tubes, but I have out of canoes and kayaks, and it's a similar situation. A stronger wind makes it difficult for boat control. It makes it difficult for when you need to go across larger expanses of water to get to where you want to fish. If it's really choppy and rough water. Know your vessel. Know its capabilities when it comes to that. 

And it's the same thing as you move up the ladder when you’re now using car toppers or you're fishing with an aluminum boat. I had an aluminum boat for a long time, kind of like a Bass Tracker. Again, flat bottom, not much of that was in the water. So again, a lighter wind, it didn't take much to blow that around and make boat control an issue. 

Also going against the waves, that boat, it did not have much of a V-hull to it. It was more of a front battery ramp. When you went across, even just when waves were beginning to whitecap in any ways larger than that, it felt like you were riding a log, and you were just bam, bam, bam, against those waves, man. And it was a rough ride. Waves were splashing over it. It made a situation a little difficult to navigate. And with the waves got even bigger, it actually turned into a dangerous situation.

Moving up to fiberglass boats, even the size difference, you know, an 18-foot fiberglass bass boat rides completely different than a 21-foot bass boat on the same water in the same windy conditions. You don't have as much control. It's a rougher ride and a little more dangerous with a shorter boat than a longer one. So, you need to understand what your boat is capable of doing on the water, depending on what craft that you are, the larger the boat, the higher the wind typically you can be in because your boat's more capable, but it still has limitations. And that's when we get to the second part, the skill level.

Guys, experience does not mean skill. It takes skill to navigate large rolling, large rollers, big whitecaps, navigating that water. A lot of times, guys think they've got all the skill in the world, and I can do this. I don't have any problem. Yeah, I was whitecapping out there, but so what, you know, I can do it. I've done this before. 

They're not tying in what I just mentioned before, the capabilities of your boat. That is a limiting factor. It has nothing to do with your skills. That boat is only going to be able to be capable of doing so much. And especially if it's not in good condition, you can really get into trouble in a hurry. Right? 

I've seen guys very capable, very skilled go out there, and they've had a failure. The trolling motor doesn't work anymore, their battery doesn't work. Maybe their bilge pump fails. And now they're in a world of hurt in a hurry. And it's because of the limitation of the boat, not the skill level of the angler. I want to emphasize that. Make sure everything's working really good in your boat before you venture out on rough water. Could be in a big problem.

And it's the same thing when you're out on rough water and trying to fish... I did this. I was on a tournament, and it was about 2-foot whitecaps. It wasn't too bad, 1 foot, 2 foot. And I was on the deck of my boat fishing this area where I knew there was fish. And the trolling motor was bouncing out of the water and back in. So, you know, control was an issue, but I was able to work it. 

And then this 4-foot roller came out of nowhere. And it came from behind. Fortunately, I heard it. It was that loud. I heard the roller coming, I turned, I was like, oh my gosh, I tried to turn the boat into it because that's what you want to do is you want to put the bow into an oncoming a wave like that, but it was bouncing out of the water. I couldn't, so I had just enough time to get on my knees and grab a hold of the pedestal seat and ride it out. And I had some water come over the bow not that much, wasn't that bad. But had I not known that was coming, that roller would have bucked me right off the boat and into the water. And the amount of time that would have taken me to get back in the boat, it would have pushed the boat up against the riprap I was fishing. Now we got a whole another issue. I've seen boats up against the bank when the wind's blowing them up, and now there's blowing water and sand and debris and everything. It happens very quickly, guys.

So, that actually kind of goes into the experience level. You don't have to actually experience those situations to know not to be in it. I've been in many tournaments where there's been calm water in the morning and it's rough water in the afternoon. And I've seen guys come in with trolling motors busted off the deck, their cowling ripped off, electronics ripped off. Heck, I even saw one guy whose motor was attached to this boat by one bolt. The other bolts had sheared off. He went into an area where there was 5-foot and 6-foot rollers. I can do it. I got the skill level. I know how to do this. His boat wasn't designed for that. 

It was a good boat. Don't get me wrong. It was a brand name 21-footer. But there's limitations, and the experience that you have out there is gonna tell you, it's gonna trump what you think your skill levels are. There's limitations out there, and experience is gonna tell you what those limitations are. Even if you don't have the experience. Guys, if you go out to launch, and typically the boat launch is full of boats, and you go that day and there's only two boats, three boats that are out in the water and it's whitecapping out there. Clue train, you know, the other experienced boaters out there are saying not today. So that's a real important factor. Don't overestimate your skills or experience levels. Those are the guys that end up in headlines the next day.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox. Let's talk about the other factors. Lake orientation, that is really important. Orientation in relation to the wind, that's what I'm talking about. If you have a north-south lake, for example, and the wind is coming from the north at a 15-mile-an-hour wind and the lake is 25 miles long, on the north end of the lake, it actually, you might have just a little bit of ripples in the water, you know, just maybe slight little bit of whitecap and not much. It's actually fine. You go on the other end of the lake though, and it can be victory at sea, that same wind speed. So, why is that? Well, the wind is completely unobstructed, unmitigated throughout the whole length of this lake, and the waves can build up and build up and build up to the point when they get down to the other end of the lake, they're rip-roaring. Two, 3-foot whitecaps, maybe more. That happens a lot. Same thing with that same body of water if the wind is coming from north or east-west. It may be completely calm. It may be doable the entire length because the wind never gets a chance, and the waves never get a chance to build up because maybe if the lake... say it's a narrow lake... it goes one direction, boom, you got whitecaps on the other end. But if it's crosswind, it never gets a chance to build up, and you're perfectly fine. So, know the direction of the orientation of the lake as relative to the wind's direction. Now, not all lakes are perfectly straight up and down. They might be oval or something like that, but you get the general sense of it. The general length of the lake as opposed to the wind is gonna really help you decide either what area not to fish and where to fish, or maybe let's try a different lake that's got a different orientation that day. This is why I'm saying wind speed. You can't really gauge that because a 15-mile-an-hour wind on one end of a lake like that is perfectly fine, where on the other end is victory at sea.

Another thing to keep in mind is the topography around the lake. Some lakes they're down in a hole. They're like in a valley. There's hills all around it, and those hills protect it from the wind. And so, it could be stronger winds, 25, 30-mile-an-hour winds, but it's sheltered and really you don't get that whitecaps, and the wind may be swirling around a bit. But it's still...it's fishable. Or like the lake that's behind me, it's in a canyon, and it's got canyon walls all around it. And actually, this lake I'll fish when it's 25 or more, you know, mile an hour wind. Big lakes, not gonna happen. But this lake's in the canyon. And the wind will actually swirl around in there, but it never gets a chance to go one direction. So, you don't typically have whitecaps building up and strong winds in one area. It's just swirling around, which I shouldn't say just. I mean, it's still difficult with boat control and castability and your accuracy.

So, smaller crafts may experience that to a larger degree than a larger craft. So, you still have to take that in consideration. But it's those type of things can make a big difference whether or not to go out and fish. Some lakes, for example, they're narrow and they got canyon walls on them and they work like a funnel. They'll take a 10-mile-an-hour wind and it turns into a 25 because that wind is just funneled down and shooting right through that canyon like a hairdryer. And that might not be a lake you want to be on when the wind speed is expected to be about 20 miles an hour or more. That can be super dangerous to be on. So, just kind of keep in mind, again, conversely, if that wind is coming from a different direction, it might be perfectly flat, calm, and fine. It's just you have to look at that lake and the layout and the topography, and understand the wind direction, how that's gonna affect that body of water. Same thing with rivers. There's some rivers where it's flat and wide open and perfectly good, but in the 15-mile-an-hour wind, if the wind is coming up against the current, and it's had miles of open water to do that, wide open expanses, nothing to break that wind up and it's going completely against the current. It's a strong current. Those two can work against each other to create real turbulent water on a rather nice calm day. Catch you off guard. Don't ask me how I know this. So, pay attention to that. The topography and the wind direction can make a huge difference, much more so than actual wind speed.

The other thing I want to talk about is location of those boat launches. Boat launches, typically on larger lakes, have multiple boat launches, and for good reason. It depends on where the wind is coming from as to whether or not that boat launch is usable in strong winds. Some boat launches are on the west side of the launch, and if the wind's coming strong from the east that is completely unusable. I mean, look at this launch. That's exactly what's happening here. It's on the west side, and the wind's coming directly from the east. And look at that. You can't use it. It's absolutely completely unusable. But that same launch with the same strong winds, but they come from the west will be completely protected from the trees around there. And that's actually a good safe harbor to use trying to get your boat on and off in those kind of winds. Here's another launch that is in the same day, 20 minutes away. And look, the waves are pretty good. Well, that's because it's in a protected little cove. And that makes it safe for you to launch and load your boat. So, pay attention to that. Mariners typically are better because they're really well... They're blocked off by a big wall, and it makes it easier to launch and load your boat. Aside from that, those guys, one thing you need to pay close attention to is proximity of that launch to where you want to fish.

Now, most guys will launch close to where they want to fish. But some guys, like if you're in a tournament, you want to go way away from everybody, and you want to go an hour away. That might be great in the morning, but if the wind's picking up, you want to make your way back closer to that launch before it gets too rough. To come back, you may be in it for a really bad boat ride and may be missing a lot of bolts off your engine by the time you get back to the launch if you wait too long. Especially if you're a smaller craft. You want to reduce the distance that you have to traverse in open water in strong winds. And so, getting close to a launch that's closer to the areas that you want to fish. That is an ideal situation that helps reduce that scenario for you. Above all, when you're fishing rough water, make sure you're wearing your life vest. I don't want to get on a soapbox, so I won't. But like that situation, I told you where I almost got bucked off a boat, I was not wearing a life vest at that time. Lesson learned. Had that happened, it would have been a really dire situation. So, take it from my experience. I was fine, but it could have turned out worse. Make sure you're wearing a life vest even when you're not, you don't have the motor on, just even while you're fishing when you're in rough water like that, you never know when a rogue wave can come along, and it changes your world in a heartbeat. So, enough said about that.

So, with that in mind, I hope that gives you an idea of, you know, again, wind speed is one thing, but all these other variables are gonna make the difference whether or not you go fishing on your specific body of water, the way you fish it with the watercraft or even on the shore, however you wanna fish it. Those variables are gonna make a big difference in determining what's best for you. And above all, guys, if you don't feel safe out on that water, get off the water. That is your body, your mind telling you, hey, listen to that. Listen to the intuition. That is the determining factor for everybody. So, pay attention to that voice in your head. Hope that helps. For more tips and tricks like this, visit BassResource.com.