Winter Winds and Kayaking in SWFL
A kayak angler who fishes the inshore waters in Southwest Florida, needs to be more concerned with wind in the winter than tidal flows. Kayaks are pretty smooth and streamlined on the bottom but anglers sitting on a kayak are more like a sail. While a tidal current rarely exceeds 5 mph, wind speed can commonly be in the 15 to 20 mph range most winter days here. Wind also creates swells and whitecaps that can add to the challenge of kayaking.
There are many things a kayak angler can do to either avoid or compensate for windy conditions. One of the most obvious is picking a protected launch and fishing area. On page 17 of “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida”, you’ll find a list of launches that are best with particular wind directions. Even on those 20+ mph days, there is always a lee shore somewhere. Knowing where to fish on days like this is important because these areas with shallow dark bottom and little wind are where the bait and gamefish hang out in the warmer water. Fish are cold blooded and use those warm water spots in the winter to hunt down and digest bait fish.
A good piece of advice that we can give you is to begin your trip paddling into the wind. This lets you head up wind when you are fresh and allows for good drift fishing downwind, plus an easier trip back to the launch when you are tired from catching all those fish. Most kayak paddles have an adjustable pitch setting that allows the paddle to catch less wind when not in the water. When adjusted this way, a simple rotation of the wrist will make it much easier to paddle into the wind when necessary.
The best investment a kayak angler can make for windy days is a drift anchor. This is just an underwater parachute that will slow your drift across a flat in the wind. It allows an angler to fish ahead of his drift without running over the lure during a retrieve that needs to be slow in the winter. This also automatically lets the angler cast with the wind and present his offering to undisturbed fish. Even lighter 1/16th ounce jigs will fly a long way with the wind. Drift socks, drift anchors or drift bags, all being the same thing, start around $15 and will reward you with the control and stability needed on windy days.
Many kayakers who anchor use an anchor trolley to help position the kayak for casting to a specific spot like a dock or seawall. We use a small folding anchor [1.5 lbs.] to stop our drift when we find a bunch of fish or to re-rig without drifting away from a good spot. This is the lightest anchor we can find, and it is not adequate to use in a strong current. We deploy our anchor from the stern of the kayak without a trolley. Anchoring this way, upwind from your quarry, puts you facing the target and casting with the wind, both very helpful on a windy day. A word of caution though; anchoring the kayak may let it ship water in rough conditions.
Another effective way to stop a kayak is a stake out pole. These are pushed into the soft bottom found on many grass flats. We deploy our stake out pole amidships using a long bungee cord between the kayak and the pole. The bungee helps by avoiding the shock that a static line would deliver from a kayak rocking in the waves. Stakeout poles are commercially made of expensive carbon fiber materials and can cost hundreds. We converted old fiberglass shuffle board cues by cutting off the head and replacing it with an epoxied point. We found our cues at a thrift shop and paid $15 for the two of them.
So, don’t let a windy day stop you from some great kayak fishing. Just make the wind and tides work for you by knowing the right launch and making a plan for the day, using the tides and wind. And always be aware of your surroundings. Stop fishing for a bit, look around and watch for turbulence from an unexpected wake or a speeding boat coming your way. Manatees and dolphin can be a treat to just sit and watch and take a few pictures!
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute this excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. These books are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn & www.anglerpocketguides.com & www.amazon.com as a download or hard copy.