John Skinner is the author of Fishing the Bucktail and A Season on the Edge. He’s the creator of the fishing log software FishersLog. He’s a consistent producer of trophy striped bass and holds the current New York State false albacore record.
I'm going to try hard not to turn this into a rant, because I respect the effort required to get through the science courses that qualifies someone to be a meteorologist. I also appreciate the number of variables that go into making weather predictions, and the fact that it is far from an exact science. That said, I can say with certainty that the Marine Forecast for my local waters, eastern Long Island Sound, is frequently wrong and understates the wind speed. For a few years now I've seen a high frequency of "5 to 10 knots" forecasts, and the reality on the water ends up being double that and sometimes more. What I find difficult to understand is how these forecasts remain posted while the easily observable actual conditions are significantly different. It's not just the wind speeds, but also the direction. My boat is a 16-foot aluminum that I launch directly from the beach because my town has no sheltered launches into Long Island Sound that are accessible if the tide is more than halfway down. The difference between a southeast wind and a northeast wind is the difference between a smooth launch/retrieval and a possible swamping. Suffice it to say that knowing the wind direction is very important to me. Lately I've gotten in the habit of looking at several forecast areas, including the land forecast, and multiple websites to see if there's a consensus, and this has been helping me plan better. When last Saturday's forecast for the eastern Sound was the perfect southeast 5 to 10 knots, but I saw the Fire Island to Moriches Inlet forecast call for easterly at 10 to 15 knots and gusts to 20, I made sure I snuck a fluke trip in on Friday afternoon because I had a feeling I'd be blown out the next day. Sure enough, the wind was east/northeast, and definitely higher than 5 to 10 knots. A shore launch with my boat would have been a challenge at best, and potentially very expensive. My brother ran out of Mattituck Inlet in a 20-foot Grady and stayed out only about an hour before it got too nasty. When describing his rough ride from Riverhead back to the inlet I asked him the wind direction, and got "northeast", which is pretty much what I observed from the shoreline. The southeast 5 to 10 forecast stayed up through the morning. I did get to meet the gentleman who makes the "5 to 10" forecasts a couple of years ago when I returned one of their weather balloons that I found washed up on the beach. I asked him about the frequent "5 to 10" forecasts and he said something to the effect that it's a large forecast area and the forecast is likely correct somewhere in that range. Fine. So maybe I'm just in the wrong place to get observations to match predictions. What's important to me is that my local marine predictions aren't helping. If you're in the same situation, looking at all forecasts in the region might help you as well. Look at everything available and try to find some agreement. Even though I'm interested in the Sound for boat trips, I actually find the South Shore Moriches to Montauk forecast to be more helpful. Then I look at Fire Island to Moriches, which usually has agreement with the Moriches to Montauk forecast. Then I look at the land forecast from Weather Underground . A nice thing about Weather Underground is that you can click on "Table" and see an hourly prediction of wind speed and direction. Seeing when wind direction and speed changes are anticipated can be very helpful. Finally I look at the land forecast from weather.gov . Even when I don't plan to fish, I frequently compare predicted vs observed weather, and this is how I eventually figured out how to get a more accurate picture of what to expect than if I just read my local Marine Forecast. The latest in my series of underwater fluke videos features a live killie on a plain hook. Having already observed how fluke will study and follow bucktails and strip baits for long distances, it was fun and interesting to see how fast they struck the plain killie. As I say in the narration though, the killie didn't attract fluke like the other offerings, and a bucktail/gulp rod worked at the same time far outproduced the live bait. It's also pretty annoying to watch several fluke following a bare hook after one of them has stolen your killie!