The following article is written by Hobie Pro Staffer and native Texan, Martin Felts.
So, What Exactly Is Barometric Pressure Anyways?
Barometric pressure is essentially the weight of the air; it constantly pushes down on everything – on us, on the earth and on the surface of the water.
Okay, But What Does It Have To Do With Fishing?
Since weather is such an influential factor when it comes to fishing, my time on the water has confirmed that barometric pressure can be very accurate: It can predict whether fish are likely to be biting, if they will soon be biting, or perhaps, if it’s best to not go fishing at all.
As a storm approaches, barometric pressure, or the “weight of the air” decreases. To understand how this works, imagine the palm of a giant hand pressing on the water’s surface and then imagine that hand easing up and its touch becoming lighter. The water isn’t as compressed as it was before, so the fish can move more easily through it. Fish activity often changes into what we might call a more ‘active’ mood. They move around more freely and feed.
The Best Time To Go Fishing
A storm also brings clouds and wave-producing winds, reducing the amount of sunlight penetration. Active fish can move to shallower water on shoreline-connected or shoreline structures. In a lot of cases, fish will often rise in the water column. In my opinion, the absolute best fishing periods often occur when barometric pressure reaches its lowest point, just before the front arrives. That old saying, that fish bite best right before the storm, is true: Head out when the forecast calls for storms moving into the area.
The picture changes when the storm is over and barometric pressure starts to rise again. The giant hand presses down harder, and the water becomes more compact. High pressure also brings clear, bluebird skies, and light penetration is often intense for the next several days.
Fish feel the increased pressure and become less active. They move tight to cover or they go deeper, where the sun isn’t so bright. When air pressure is high, fish become less aggressive. They just come up and look. They may eventually take it, but you have to work a little harder.
“That old saying, that fish bite best right before the storm, is true: Head out when the forecast calls for storms moving into the area.”Hobie Pro Staffer Martin Felts
The effect of the pressure change is most pronounced on the first day after the storm passes.
The impact of a change in barometric pressure is more severe in winter. For one reason, the swing between high and low pressure is more drastic during the cold months. For another, the same high pressure is affecting less water volume when part of it is locked up as ice.
Barometers Are A Handy Tool
Here’s a fun Ted Talk explaining everything you need to know about a barometer, the instrument used by meteorologists to measure atmospheric pressure and predict weather patterns:
No Barometer? You Can Also Read The Wind
But a barometer isn’t necessarily needed to know what’s happening with air pressure. You can choose to read the wind instead.
Before the (storm) front, wind is out of the south. When it switches to west-northwest, pressure begins to rise.
That old saying, “Wind from the east, fish bites the least,” is also true.
“Wind comes from the east the longer high pressure is in place,” says Meteorologist and avid Angler Todd Heitkamp.“By then, high pressure has taken a real toll on the fish.”
“When you get out on a body of water, people do what they normally have done, we fish in a comfort zone. What they haven’t done is check the weather. If you don’t understand what the weather is doing, you’re already behind the eight ball on learning what the fish are going to want that day.”
What I do is keep a record of the weather that I have predicted.
Storm coming? Then low pressure is on its way, and faster, aggressive tactics may be best.
High Pressure (30.50 +) & Clear Skies = Fishing Medium to Slow = Fish slowly in deeper water or near cover.
Medium Pressure (29.70 – 30.40) & Fair Weather = Normal Fishing = Test lures, baits and techniques to see what works
Low Pressure (29.60 -) & Cloudy/Rainy Weather = Fishing Slows = Fish slowly in deeper water or near cover
Rising Pressure & Improving Weather = Fish Slightly Active = Fish slowly in deeper water or near cover
Stable Pressure & Fair Weather = Normal Fishing = Best time to test lures, baits, and techniques to see what works
Falling Pressure & Degrading Weather = Best Fishing = The fish will attack anything you throw at them. (well, pretty much)