I received a text message from my buddy Eric on Friday, July 30th looking for a little weather advice for the advancing weekend. “Based off the forecast do you think Sunday morning will be fishable with the wind?”
If you remember that particular weekend forecast, the handicappers at NOAA’s National Weather Center put the Sunday line at some pretty dismal odds, with winds forecast to 20 knots or better out of the south. So I texted E. back, “the Magic 8 Ball says results hazy check back later.”
I’ve often joked how weather forecasts should never be used for gambling purposes, and only for amateur entertainment. And living most of my life at the Jersey Shore I’ve grown accustomed to waiting until the last minute to make fishing decisions, which is not always possible for those living 2 hours away. However, in the game we’re in, NOAA Weather is in fact the bellwether for local business and activity, and if they determine that the weekend is going to be a bust, the network news affiliates in Philly and New York will repurpose that doom and gloom for their viewers to readily make alternative plans.
So that Saturday night before hitting the rack, I rechecked the NOAA inshore weather forecast once more, again finding southerly wind gusts predicted to 20 knots or greater through the night and into Sunday morning. Helping make my decision were a few captains I knew who opted to cancel those Sunday charters traveling in from out of state. So rather than setting the alarm for 4:30 to do a little dawn yak attack on fluke that Sunday morning before compiling our weekly fishing reports for TheFisherman.com, I opted to sleep in and knock items off the “Honeydo List” later in the morning.
Suffice to say, I should’ve gone back to the Magic 8 Ball instead; wiping sleep from my eyes and pulling back the curtains around 7ish there wasn’t a lick of wind blowing through the trees. Yup, I missed a good window for some early morning bay and river fluking, because I effectively put my trust in the federal government!
I get it, predicting coastal weather – especially where the northerly/southerly situated Jersey Shore meets the east/west right turn of Long Island – must be difficult for even the well-trained meteorologist. But it’s sad to think that the agency (NOAA) responsible for managing our coastal fisheries (telling us when and how we can fish) is the same one that lays weekly weather odds (telling us when and how we can fish).
Folks, I’m not telling you to ignore weather forecasts and alerts, nor am I saying that NOAA Weather should not be used for fishing decisions. But with so little precious time to enjoy our opportunities to fish, it’s important to be as adaptive as possible when planning out the weekend. Lay out your plans to meet at the dock, and bookmark the marine weather sites (use weather.gov/phi/ out of Philly or weather.gov/okx out of New York) on your phone to make last minute decisions. If winds are predicted in one direction that will affect fishing along your favorite sod back or jetty, have a back-up plan for fishing in lee of the wind somewhere else. It’s a little different when you’re planning for a canyon run of course, but if you’re sticking close to home, bay or beach, plan to improvise before you implode your plans.
And please be especially cautious with those weather heads at the network affiliates; they’re the ones taking NOAA Weather and hedging their own bets on doom and gloom in an effort to attract and entertain viewers. Heck, I heard one recently riffing on a Beluga whale sighting by saying that’s where Beluga caviar comes from.
No lie, there should really be a disclaimer on those city news broadcasts!