In a nod to Forrest Gump, January weather along the Gulf coast is a lot like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get.
Depending on if Old Man Winter decides to reappear or not, average high temperatures are generally in the mid-60s and average lows are in the mid-40s — but that doesn’t mean we won’t have several days when the mercury dips below freezing, or rises into the upper-70s in the afternoon.
So if you’re planning a wintertime fishing trip, it’s best to pay close attention to the weather forecast and dress accordingly.
“I try to warn my clients ahead of time,” said Capt. Mike Gallo, with Angling Adventures of Louisiana in Slidell. “If I wouldn’t head them off the night before, I see a lot of people wearing layers of cotton. That just doesn’t work because your heat goes right through the cotton and the breeze blows your heat away.”
Unless it’s a bitterly cold day by Louisiana standards (and if it is, you probably won’t be fishing), Gallo recommends wearing an outer protective layer that will keep your heat inside — and the wind out.
“You would be better off with a T-shirt and windbreaker than three sweatshirts,” he said. “It just holds your warmth in, and the windbreaker obviously keeps the cold out.”
Gallo recounted the tale of a client years ago from the Northeast, who gleefully called his wife back home from the dock one morning before they headed out to fish. The woman was obviously dealing with snowfall overnight, and her husband was rubbing in the fact that it was sunny and 45 degrees as the day started.
But Gallo said the man’s tune changed after about a 20-minute boat ride to the first fishing spot.
“The guy is sitting on the floor hiding from the wind behind the gunnels, and I’m like, ‘You OK?’ He said, ‘Man, it’s colder than I thought.’ And he had a big sweater on,” Gallo said. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll be alright in a little bit. Just let me generate a little heat. That ride really got me.’
“To make a long story short, I ended up having to put a rain suit on him to block the wind before he heated up.”
In the winter, Gallo also recommends waterproof shoes or boots that will keep your feet dry.
“I don’t want my feet wet,” Gallo said with a chuckle. “If I have a choice to be wet from the ankles up or the ankles down, give me the ankles up.
“If my feet are cold, I’m cold.”
Overall, it’s better to have too much in the way of winter weather gear than not enough.
“As the day progress and it warms up, we have plenty of space on the boat. You can always take it off,” Gallo said. “The objective is to go and enjoy yourself while you’re on the water. But if you don’t bring it and you’re cold and shivering, who has a good time fishing?”