We assess how presymptomatic infection affects predictability of infectious disease epidemics. We focus on whether or not a major outbreak (i.e. an epidemic that will go on to infect a large number of individuals) can be predicted reliably soon after initial cases of disease have appeared within a population. For emerging epidemics, significant time and effort is spent recording symptomatic cases. Scientific attention has often focused on improving statistical methodologies to estimate disease transmission parameters from these data.