Wind and weather is always a big factor when it comes to planning a fishing trip or any other outdoor activity. If you’re out on a boat, wind can make for an uncomfortable (or even dangerous) experience. Still, it can be difficult to know how much wind is too much for fishing.
15 MPH wind is slightly strong, but not too strong, for fishing in most cases. How much you’re impacted by the wind will depend on the surrounding geography, what type of body of water you’re fishing in, what you’re fishing for, and the size of your vessel (if you’re on a boat).
Understanding Wind Speed
When you’re fishing, it’s a good idea to be familiar with marine warnings and how wind speeds are communicated for boaters. When winds reach certain speeds, marine warnings are broadcast to alert boaters so they can take special care or get off the water if needed. These are usually communicated in terms of knots.
Speed on the water is typically measured in knots, so wind speeds are also measured this way. One knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour. Winds are categorized based on speed.
|Wind Speed Category||Wind Speed (Knots)||Wind Speed (MPH)|
|Light Winds||1 – 14||1 – 15|
|Moderate Winds||15 – 19||16 – 22|
|Strong Winds||20 – 33||24 – 37|
|Gale Force Winds||34 – 47||39 – 54|
|Storm Strength Winds||48 – 63||55 – 73|
If you’re in a boat, you should always heed marine and weather warnings. Typically, the authorities will issue warnings once wind speeds reach and exceed 20 knots (around 24 MPH).
Small Craft Warnings are issued when winds reach (or are expected to reach) a sustained speed of 20 to 33 knots.
Gale Warnings are issued if winds are expected to reach and sustain speeds of 34 to 47 knots.
Storm Warnings are issued if winds are expected to reach and sustain speeds of 48 to 63 knots.
Another way to measure wind speeds is using the Beaufort Scale, and it’s a good way to measure wind speed if you’re already out on the water and don’t have any wind speed devices. It also gives you another way to consider the impacts of reported wind speeds and gusts.
Beaufort Wind Force Scale
|0||0||Calm and still; Smoke rises vertically.|
|1||1 – 3 mph||Light winds; Smoke drifts in wind direction.|
|2||4 – 7 mph||Light breeze; Wind felt on face, flag ripples.|
|3||8 – 12 mph||Gentle breeze; Flag waves|
|4||13 – 18 mph||Gentle breeze; Leaves and paper scatters.|
|5||19 – 24 mph||Fresh breeze; Small trees sway, whitecaps on waves.|
|6||25 – 31 mph||Strong breeze; Hard to use an umbrella.|
|7||32 – 38 mph||Moderate gale; Trees sway, walking is difficult.|
|8||39 – 46 mph||Fresh gale; Twigs/branches break from trees.|
|9||47 – 54 mph||Strong gale; Roof tiles blow off buildings.|
|10||55 – 63 mph||Whole gale; Trees uprooted.|
|11||64 – 73 mph||Storm; Widespread damage, no visibility at sea.|
|12||74 – 136 mph||Hurricane; Widespread destruction, tornado.|
Source: National Geographic
How Windy is Too Windy for Fishing?
Using information like the Beaufort Scale, wind speed categories, and marine warning standards, we can determine what wind speeds pose a danger to those on the water. However, even if a certain wind speed is safe, that doesn’t mean that it will create good conditions for fishing.
Wind creates a disturbance in the water. It can stir up sediment and reduce visibility, and it can make the water very choppy and difficult to fish in. Many fish seek shelter during high wind periods, which can be a good or bad thing for anglers depending on what they’re fishing for.
Most fishermen agree that winds over 20 mph are too strong for good fishing. Some people opt out during winds over 10 mph, but it really depends on your geographic location, local conditions, and the size and type of your boat.
Ultimately, if conditions become unsafe, then it’s too windy to fish. So, it’s important to follow all warnings from local officials and the Coast Guard. However, if you’re in a safe location with some shelter from gusts, or a large enough boat to handle the extra breeze, a little wind may help your fishing conditions.
Wind can certainly make it harder to cast, harder to see the fish, and harder to control the line. But, there are some ways that you can use the wind to your advantage and some characteristics of a windy day that may increase your chances of success.
- Choppy water: While choppy water makes it harder for you to see under the surface, the flip side is that it makes it harder for fish to see you above the surface. This can help you be a little more stealthy and mask some of the sounds that you make that could scare away your catch. Not to mention, water with lower visibility can better hide your line and any flaws in your bait and tackle.
- Better water conditions: Wind stirs up the water and helps oxygenate it. It can also push food (like plankton) into a more concentrated area. This can attract more fish into a smaller region, with larger predator fish following suit. Wind can also blow small insects into the water, creating an additional foodsource to lure bigger fish into the area.
Fishing on a Boat in Wind
Winds 15 mph and under are considered “light winds,” which means that many boaters can still safely launch under those conditions. However, how much wind that’s safe for your vessel depends on your skill and experience and the boat’s specifications.
For example, boats with flat bottoms are better suited for light winds than moderate. Deep Vee type hulls do well in stiff winds and choppy waters. Other types of boats can perform well in conditions that bounce the boat around on the water.
It’s important to remember a general rule that if the wind speed doubles, the waves quadruple in strength. This can be the difference between a safe and unsafe situation for many boaters. Familiarize yourself with what conditions are best for you and your vessel before you head out on the water. Don’t wait until you’re caught in deteriorating weather to find out.
If you’re going to try to fish in windy conditions, it’s best to head out into the wind and use it on your back when you’re coming back in.
Your location and surrounding geography can have a huge impact on how the wind affects you and your boat. Being able to duck into a canal or into some mangroves can offer you a chance to seek refuge if the water gets too choppy. You’ll have a different experience if you’re out on the open water versus in a lake.
Tips for Fishing in Windy Weather
Even if you find a place to seek shelter from the wind, fishing can be a lot more difficult than on a still, clear day. You’ll probably experience trouble casting your line accurately, tangled lines, and roughness on the water can make it hard to feel when there’s a fish on the line. However, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of a successful catch.
- Cast into the wind. Whether you’re in a boat or on the shoreline, try to position yourself so that you’re casting your line into the wind. This will help your cast get better distance and have less chance of it going off-course. If you can’t position yourself to cast into the wind, you can try to increase your accuracy by casting side-armed and keeping it low to the water as much as possible.
- Troll directly into or with the wind. If you’re trolling lines, they’re less likely to blow around and get tangled with one another if you go into the wind so the breeze hits the boat on its beam. If you’re unable to do this, another option is to put your lightest lures on the downwind side and the heaviest ones with more drag on the upwind side. This can help prevent your lighter lines from blowing onto the heavier ones and getting tangled.
- Fish shallower. During windy conditions, bass typically feed closer to the water’s surface. Because of this shift, you can have better luck if you fish in 5-10 feet of water rather than 15-20 feet. If you normally use bottom-dragging baits, try a shallow crank or spinnerbait in a shallower range instead.
- Anchor as needed. Even if you don’t typically drop anchor, it may be necessary during windy conditions if you’re having difficulty controlling your position. This is usually only an issue if you’re trying to fish in a really specific location.
- Fish near (or from) a dock or pier. If the wind is blowing parallel to the shoreline, any stray bait and other food items will drift down current. If there are docks and piers along the shoreline, then there’s a good chance that there are fish hiding in those areas waiting for their next meal to drift by. You can take advantage of this by casting near these structures to catch lone predator fish.
- Drift around the contours of land. Fish suspend along the bottom of the water to take advantage of food that gets swept in currents and along the shallow rise of the bottom near land. You can fish these contours by aiming your boat into the wind and drifting. You can repeat your drifts, starting at shore and working your way to the tip of the point where the bottom drops off into the deeper water. Hold your rod at a 45-degree angle so your bait can gently drag along the bottom as you drift.
- Fish island windbreaks. As wind gusts along the exposed sides of an island, it creates a windbreak at the corners where small fish get swept in by the wind and current. This is a prime location for predator fish to wait and ambush their prey. In the right windy conditions, an angler can take advantage of this by drifting across each side of the island with the boat between the windy shoreline and calm water. The area where the calm water meets the wind is the strike zone where these predator fish will make their move.
In addition to these tips for better fishing, it’s important to also be prepared with the right tools and equipment to ensure that you’re staying safe while fishing in windy conditions. Make sure that if you’re heading offshore, you have a flare kit (like this Marine Emergency Kit from Orion Safety), an anchor with plenty of rope, life vests, and a good quality marine radio in case of emergency.
Wind can be a make or break factor when it comes to a fishing trip. However, you can also use wind to your advantage. As long as the wind isn’t at dangerous levels, it doesn’t have to ruin your day.
15 MPH winds are still considered “light,” and small craft warnings and advisories typically aren’t issued for winds at that speed. However, wind affects different geographies in different ways, so you should always check the local conditions when evaluating whether you should head out on the water.
Whether you’re in a boat, the type of boat, and the body of water will all determine how strong 15 MPH winds feel and how they impact your fishing. For example, wind on a kayak will feel much stronger than wind on a large fishing boat. 15 MPH may be considered strong for fishing if you’re fishing in a kayak. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t fish at all – just maybe that you should consider fishing from shore instead.
Adapting your techniques, equipment, and expectations can help ensure that you have an enjoyable time fishing in any conditions. However, you should always make safety your priority and follow any local guidance and advisories that are issued in your area. Never go out on the water alone and make sure that you have the proper safety equipment for your fishing trip.
My name is Ruben. I love fishing like most guys I know. Fishing is so much more than just an outdoor activity- its an escape, its therapy and so much more. I put together a team of other professional anglers in order to create the most inclusive fishing resource.