When Is It Too Rough To Go Fishing?
You wake up early, pack your gear and head to the marina, no doubt energized by visions of bent rods and big fish. Then, someone pulls the plug. Could be the captain, could be the charter client — either way, the last-minute indecision and cancellation is a bummer.
Weather is weather and it cares not for human plans, but deciding how and when to bail on a fishing trip can be handled through forethought, honest assessments and mutually fair conclusions. While modern weather forecasting provides the data, personal tolerances frame the likely outcomes.
Some captains may rely on the blanket policy: “Once we leave the dock, it’s a trip and payment is due, regardless of when you want to come in.” Harsh, but short of a legitimate emergency, that’s a fair expectation. However, many fishing captains are more proactive about making fair judgement calls and, at least, discussing the day’s weather outlook with scheduled clients.
Capt. Ryan Harrington, runs inshore, coastal and offshore trips out of St. Petersburg, Florida. When judging a day’s outlook, he bases his decision on three criteria: on-the-water conditions, angler comfort and business factors.
Harrington pieces together a comprehensive meteorological outlook by combining details from multiple weather resources. His favorites, Weather Underground, Windy and Windfinder give him a clear picture of what to expect in terms of wind and waves, but he’s also cognizant of seasonal extremes.
“Winter can be tough because when you get winds out of the north, it can cause negative low tides,” Harrington says. “The wind direction can make some areas unfishable due to low water.”
Most folks can handle some rain when the fish are biting — especially during a summer trip — getting soaked just enhances the story. Memories are made in the details, so as long as everyone remains safe, all is well. But lightning is non-negotiable. If lightning is around, no fishing boats should be on the water. Florida summers typically brings the highest potential, and Harrington says the entire season keeps him on his toes.