Wind from the east

Updated: October 5, 2005, 12:39 AM ET
By Dave Scroppo | BASSMASTER Magazine, October 2005
Over millennia, across cultures, an east wind has been a harbinger of cataclysmic change with a striking commonality: northern latitudes. In Exodus 14:21, such was the impetus behind the parting of the Red Sea. "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea," the text says, "and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." A more foreboding version of easterlies comes by way of a Palestinian fable that tells of a day of judgment in which God will send forth a scorching east wind to set the world on fire, with hot tongues of flame to punish the unjust.

Indeed, literature and lore over the ages are abundant with tales of wrath related to the east wind. But whether the sources are Jewish or Muslim — or Christian, for that matter — a common thread is that the east wind has long been a freak of nature in the northern hemisphere, where prevailing winds above 30 degrees latitude, which runs from approximately Tallahassee, Florida, to Cairo, Egypt, are from the west. Anything from the east is an oddity. It is no coincidence, then, that notions of the peculiar wind's ill tidings endure among amateur meteorologists, contemporary seafarers and, yes, freshwater fishermen. My grandmother, a farmer in Iowa, was fond of saying, "Wind from the east — look out, bad weather's coming." Legendary nor'easters, the savage storms that slam the Eastern Seaboard with winds from the northeast, clobber ocean ­vessels — shores, too — with gales to 60 mph and waves as high as 45 feet when warm air from Atlantic currents collides with cold from Canada. Case in point: "The Perfect Storm," an epic October 1991 tempest that was named by the National Weather Service, claimed the swordfishing boat the Andrea Gail and its crew, and inspired author Sebastian Junger's nonfiction account of the same name and, later, a movie. And who, of course, is unfamiliar with the angler's old saw of "Wind from the east, fish bite least"?

Still, any causal connection between an east wind and diminished or irascible behavior among freshwater fish and, specifically, largemouth bass is more anecdotal than scientific. Even if it is agreed upon by the fishing public that bass become more cranky and temperamental during and following an east wind, the mechanisms by which their attitude erodes are somewhat a matter of conjecture, with the scientific community suspecting that the combined inputs on various sensory systems are responsible for the fishes' seeming malaise. Even so, it is difficult for academicians to say for sure how the impulses affecting lateral lines, swim bladders, eyesight and other faculties come together to yield a closemouthed attitude among fish that we anglers believe we encounter. Perhaps the way fish and even warm-blooded animals respond to change, and possibly anticipate it, is more complex and indiscernible than ever imagined. (For more, see "The Sixth Sense?" below.)