Heading miles offshore on a sportfisher can be peaceful with good conditions, but if the wind picks up, it can get uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. Wind makes fishing more difficult in almost every way, and at some point, it’s not safe. Let’s take a look at how wind affects offshore fishing and how much wind is too much.
The open ocean has no protection from gusting winds, which means once it starts blowing, the water will get choppy. In a large boat like a sportfisher, the chop is usually no big deal, but fighting the wind means burning more fuel. On the other hand, wind moves water, which stirs up organisms at the bottom of the food chain. This is typically followed by a feeding frenzy that runs up the food chain. When winds pick up, the bite also seems to pick up.
That being said, in too much wind, it’s hard to keep baits running properly. Trolling surface lures becomes difficult, because the wind and waves make the lure act erratically, which tends to attract fewer bites.
Although it can be hard to see, the wind has a big impact on water conditions. Wind moves water, creating currents that can weaken or strengthen tides and other currents. Ultimately, it comes down to how the wind affects the waves, which are more likely to threaten the boat. On its own, wind can push the boat off course, but doesn’t pose a safety hazard until wind speeds reach extreme levels.
When considering if there is too much wind to head offshore, looking at water conditions and wind speed will give you a better indication of what’s safe. To find the weather and water conditions look here. Seas over three feet and far apart look like big swells that are easily navigated. But, when winds blow, the waves and chop begin to compress. The swells become waves from the added pressure of strong winds, which also have chop on top of it. As winds approach 20 knots, typical three foot seas go from smooth sailing to rough and unpleasant.
The weather conditions that can be fished or navigated will largely depend on what size boat you have. Bigger boats can generally handle rougher conditions before being in danger of swamping or capsizing. Offshore boats range from 30 to over 80 feet, and the difference in capability is significant. But, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
As a general rule, anything over three foot seas with winds of 20 to 25 knots creates conditions that are no longer safe for fishing. Checking the distance between waves is also helpful, because if they are far enough apart, they are smooth. However, with winds approaching 25 knots, it’s unlikely that the waves will be small and spread out.