Wind is the Name of the Game
March in Florida is usually one of the windiest months we have, excluding the days when a tropical storm or hurricane are
near us. It is a transition month, where we usually get some summer-like temperatures, followed by a cold front knocking on the door, and a few days of cooler weather. This March has been a prime example of that weather pattern. We've had fishing days in the upper 80s and days in the 60s. But, all of them have had one thing in common: wind. The average winds have been 15-20 MPH and they have been from all points on the compass. My normal areas provide wind protection from most directions, but some directions have minimal areas to look to relief and the fish do not always want to cooperate in those protected areas.
It is during these times that I am happy to have the skiff I have. She is lighter than most, and can be poled straight into the teeth of 30 MPH winds, although it does take a little effort; this is where the days off spent in the gym help. When it comes to fishing in the wind, anglers should be prepared and have a knowledge of how to overcome nature's forces and make a successful presentation. Whether a conventional angler or a fly angler, it means making the rod do the work and making the offering do what you want, not what the wind wants (more on this a little later). The nice part is the fact that fish are usually not as spooky in windy conditions, so a delicate presentation is not as important as during those calm, glass-like conditions that will start within the next few weeks. Beginning anglers can find this time a little easier to have success, as long as they can adjust and use the tackle properly.
The wind doesn't really disturb the fish too much. In fact, many will use the wind to their advantage, finding the areas that bait has been pushed up due to their inability to fight the wind and have a feeding frenzy. Jacks, ladyfish, snook, and more will use the winds to their advantage and have a happy time feeding with minimal effort and getting fatter every mouth full. This can make for some exciting fishing action, as the predators visibly crash through pods of small baitfish, blasting and slashing the scared little baitfish like a scene from a B-rated horror film. These are the times that lures like a Z-Man PaddleZ or a Rapala Twitch Mullet work wonderfully. The idea is to imitate the baitfish that the predators are working and make it stand out just a little; this almost guarantees a strike. Then it is just a matter of the angler getting the hook set and enjoying the resulting battle. Predator fish are not the only ones that use this method to increase their success; pods of bottlenose dolphins will do the same. A perfect example of this took place this past Friday, while my clients were trying to entice some big snook into eating.
On that day, there were hundreds of small Spanish Mackerel free jumping through the air; like little rockets, they propel themselves into the air and dive back in head first. Sometimes they are completing this action while crashing through bait, sometimes they are doing it for what appears to be pure pleasure. Whatever the cause, it draws the attention of bottlenose dolphin, who love the rich, oily fish as lunch. Dolphin are more intelligent than most and on this day, they decided to school the Spanish against the hull of my skiff, providing them no escape when they decided to come crashing through. We had little warning of what was taking place until the biggest dolphin from the pod came crashing into the side of the skiff, pinning Spanish against the side of hull and the dolphin slammed its tail against the side of the hull, sending water droplets across us all. At the same moment, a second, juvenile dolphin, surged under the boat, targeting those fish pinned against the bottom of the hull. The little guy's back and tail lifted the skiff up, jostling all of us and momentarily spooking my clients. It was a close encounter with nature and a sight that many people don't get to experience in person.
I've had a lot of new anglers in recent weeks, and the wind can play havoc with them; heck, even some experience anglers
have a difficult time making accurate casts in the wind. To have the best success, the angler must let the rod do the work. Rods are meant to bend (load) and then return to their normal straight shape. By properly loading the rod and not trying to muscle it too much, the rod design will accurately send your bait to the target. To help battle windy conditions, it is helpful to sidearm cast, keeping them as close to the water's surface as possible; at least when casting into the wind or across it. When casting with the wind, you can put more loft into your cast, allowing the wind to help carry your bait to the target. In all of these cases, it pays to feather the spool of your reel with your hand, so you can control when to stop the bait and do so in a gentle fashion. The nice thing about new anglers? Most of them listen and readily accept advice. So, despite difficult conditions, we've had success.
April is here now and the winds will start to calm, hopefully. The weather will warm up a bit and our waters will get a little cloudier with algae. This doesn't mean that sight fishing ends. In fact, it can get a little easier, as you can get closer to the fish without them spooking. These conditions just require a little more patience, as we slow down the speed of poling the skiff and look a little harder for signs of predators. The increased water temperatures will also mean the arrival of tarpon; in fact, we had our first tarpon follow three days ago on a fly fishing trip. You do not have to travel to the Keys for tarpon. While they are known for sight fishing large tarpon, we have one of the greatest juvenile tarpon fisheries in the world. These fish will range from 5 pounds to 50 pounds and they are just as much fun as their bigger relatives; actually, I like them better. They fight hard, jump a ton, and can be caught in a few minutes so you can try for another one. We get the big ones too, and it is not uncommon for us to target some fish in the 150 pound range.
With so many options becoming available, all you have to do is decide what you want to chase the most: snook, tarpon, redfish, seatrout, black drum, or something else. Then decide how you want to fish for them: conventional tackle, fly gear, artificial lures, or live bait. Each fish and each method of fishing has its advantages and all of them are a fun way to spend a day in Natural Florida! So, contact me and let's book a trip together!