tampabay.com

Winds force fishermen to change their course

By ED WALKER Fishing
Published May 26, 2007


Nearly continuous strong easterly winds have forced boaters to remain close to the shore the past week and the forecast is for more of the same through Monday. With 20-plus mph winds blowing from the east, fishermen should keep in mind that while a ride out to the west may not seem too rough, once you turn around you will find yourself in heavy seas with a difficult course back to land. For the past six days we have found the gulf has been fishable within a mile or 2 of shore, too choppy for safe or enjoyable operation of a 23-footer outside that. On several occasions lately we have witnessed boaters running out toward the gulf in small boats limping back in slowly, soaking wet and disheveled.

Even close to the shore where the waves are smaller, big winds make nearly all aspects of boating more difficult. Anchoring, even in shallow water, is harder due to the constant push of the rapidly moving air on the sides of the hull. At the very least, you should set two or three times the amount of rope you normally would to allow for a lower angle of pull on the flukes of the anchor. Since slips of the anchor are likely, divers, waders or anyone else who may exit the vessel should be sure keep one person on the boat at all times. With the direction of the wind lately, boats that break loose will be carried out to sea quickly.

The best bet this weekend is going to be flats fishing along the mainland shore in the protected coves, canals, bays and rivers. Snook and redfish feed better when things are stirred up a bit if you can get a bait into their vicinity. Live scaled sardines are the top choice for snook bait but since they are usually found in relatively open water, catching these prized baitfish may be difficult. Keep an eye open for pelicans diving in areas where the water is clear and try chumming with a mix of Kozy Kitten cat food and menhaden oil. The oil not only aids in attracting baitfish, it produces a slick on the surface of the water that will allow you to see through the wind ripple.

Whether you are catching bait or casting for snook, positioning the boat upwind of your target area is going to be crucial in such windy conditions. Casting a line or a net into the breeze will not work. Conversely, casting distance downwind is going to be twice what it normally is so use that to your advantage. Being able to fish a spot from farther away can be beneficial. When fishing in the wind, lower your rod tip to the surface of water to pull your line out of the air. Any line that is not in the water will act as a sail and may draw your bait away from its intended locations.

When the winds finally subside, expect to find more kingfish and mackerel lingering offshore than normal for this time of year. Low water temperatures have kept many of the migratory species in the area for an extended visit. Vast schools of Spanish sardines and threadfin herring are still out there and the kings, mackerel and black tip and spinner sharks are right behind them. While fishing a kingfish tournament last weekend, Jason Capra and John Akers slow-trolled live baits around an artificial reef and landed a 35- to 40-pound sailfish. They reported the kings were thick but that even in their 33-foot sportfishing boat, the seas were rougher than they would normally be fishing in.