Wind from the east, fish bite the least;
Wind from the west, the fish bite the best;
Wind from the north, few sailors set forth;
Wind from the south blows bait in their mouth.
I’ve heard variations of this old fishing rhyme at least a thousand times since I was a kid. While it’s not always correct, the little proverb is a good predictor for fishing trips across most of the U.S.
The wind direction doesn’t cause fish to bite, but the reason behind the wind direction often does. For example, an east wind usually blows after a big cold front. A rapid drop in water temperature is a shock to the entire aquatic ecosystem, especially the bottom of the food chain, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this is the kiss of death for catching fish. A west wind, on the other hand, usually happens right before a storm hits. Sensing the changing conditions, fish often go on a binge right before the front, which makes for the awesome fishing stories we remember so well. The north wind is also associated with the aforementioned cold front, and regardless of the fishing, cold air and big waves make most boaters think twice about going out. Finally, south winds blow during warm-ups in the spring and fall, or stable weather during the summer, both of which are normally agreeable to the fishermen and the fish.
Another old saying is that “wind is the fisherman’s friend.” I tend to agree with that. A bit of chop on the water reduces the visibility underwater, so fish can’t readily see the flaws in your bait. Furthermore, the wave action along the shore often stirs up the bottom of the food chain, giving the big fish a reason to feed. Therefore, I’ll take an east wind or a north wind over no wind.
Everything in moderation, though. Trust me — a 50-mph wind is not your friend, even if it is from the west!