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How Barometric Pressure Affects Fishing

As a seasoned angler, there are certain factors to consider when going on a fishing trip. This includes your fishing location, style, timing, as well as the type of fish that you are targeting.

These factors determine the type of fishing gear and the best techniques for your fishing exercise. Another important factor to consider before fishing is barometric pressure.

In this article, we will discuss the relationship between barometric pressure and fishing, highlighting the best conditions for fishing.

What is Barometric Pressure?

For most anglers, checking the weather forecast entails looking out for conditions like wind, rainfall, and temperature. In doing this, they typically ignore the barometric pressure.

Oftentimes than not, this is because they do not understand what barometric pressure is and its effect on fish behavior. In this section, we will break down what barometric pressure means and how it affects your fishing.

Barometric pressure is also referred to as atmospheric pressure or air pressure. In simple terms, it is the weight of the air that presses down on the earth and everything in it.

The air pressing down on the earth affects weather, the feeding patterns, and the behavior of fish, as well as other animals.

Air is very light and almost weightless. However, particles such as water vapor and gas atoms apply pressure on the earth. This is how the barometric pressure comes about.

At a location with a high altitude, the air pressure is typically lesser than it is at sea level. This means that there is lower barometric pressure at the high altitude location when compared to the sea level location.

The barometric pressure of a location changes from time to time, depending on altitude, temperature, and air density.

By studying the changes in atmospheric pressure, you can predict the weather condition. A rise in air pressure typically comes with a high-pressure system that results in clear and sunny weather.

On the other hand, a drop in air pressure comes with a low-pressure system, which results in cloudy and rainy weather. It is important to know the type of barometric pressure to expect at a fishing location, as this will help you to prepare for the weather and expected fish behavior.

Knowing the predictable feeding routines of fish will save you a lot of time and stress. You will have no trouble figuring out what part of the water to target, as well as the type of fishing tactics that will work best.  

barometric pressure and fishing
Source: Canva Pro

How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Fish?

It might be surprising that a slight change in air pressure can affect fish and even alter their feeding patterns. The reason for this is that fish have organs that help them to sense changes in the pressure systems.

These senses are referred to as natural pressure-sensing systems, including lateral lines and swim bladders. Their lateral lines are sensory organs that help them to detect movement and vibrations in the water.

The swim bladders, on the other hand, are sacs that work as internal regulators to help them maintain buoyancy with changes in water pressure.

Also known as air bladders, swim bladders inflate when the pressure drops and shrink when it rises. With these organs, fish sense the changes in barometric pressure from below the water’s surface.

Now that we have an understanding of how fish pick on the changes in barometric pressure, we can discuss how these affect them. Fish species are affected by barometric pressure in different ways.

How it affects small fish react is quite different from how it affects game fish such as crappies and largemouth bass.

One of the ways that fish respond to changes in barometric pressure is by moving to a different location.

Fish usually feel discomfort when their swim bladders are inflated in response to changes in barometric pressure, as it causes them to be bloated and unbalanced.

As such, they tend to move around in the water to find relief. Smaller fish are always more affected by these changes, and they typically swim to the deeper waters to get comfortable.

In the deeper waters, the weight of the water causes a higher pressure, thereby enabling their swim bladders to deflate.

Another way that barometric pressure affects fish is by altering their eating habits.

Most fish tend to eat more when a storm is coming and when one is clearing out. In other words, most fish feed more during a rise or fall in barometric pressure.

This is because everything in the water floats sinks, or suspends midway through the water column, whenever there is a change in barometric pressure.

This causes sediments to float higher in the water column, pushing organisms like phytoplankton and zooplankton up. Naturally, baitfish go after these organisms catching them off guard.

To complete the chain reaction, bigger fish like northern pike and bass feed on the baitfish. As such, a rising or falling barometer usually marks a period of fine fishing.

It is important to note that fish in shallow water are affected by changes in atmospheric pressure than those in deep waters.

Despite the rush that comes with fishing during periods of barometric pressure changes, fair weather still represents a great period for fishing. This is because the presence of good water temperature, light penetration, and dissolved oxygen levels makes fish develop predictable fishing routines.

In addition, low-pressure systems can affect fishing. Major cold fronts often leave fish inactive, evacuating the shallow water and heading for the deeper sections.  

Which Barometric Pressure is Good for Fishing?

The barometric pressure at a given time has a big impact on fishing. This is why it is important to know the best barometric pressure for fishing.

Generally, the best barometric pressure for fishing is falling pressure, a period during which the weather is degrading.

Fish are usually very active during a period of falling barometric pressure, with a healthy appetite. As such, they are to eat any food you use as bait.

Stable and medium atmosphere pressure is the second best condition for fishing. This is because it comes with good weather that makes the feeding habits of fish to be very predictable.

During this period, you can experiment with different techniques, using new baits and lures. This will allow you to improve your fishing skills and learn new fishing tactics.

Low-pressure conditions are not suitable for fishing. This is because fish tend to be slow and inactive in such conditions. They also typically stay in deeper water, causing them to bite slowly. This will require you to cast your line deeper than normal.

In high-pressure conditions, fish are also not too active. They usually stay near cover and in deeper water during such a period. A slow technique is the best tactic for such conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will provide answers to frequently asked questions about fishing and barometric pressure.

Do fish like low or high pressure?

Fish are not very active during periods of low or high pressure. This is because these periods cause them much discomfort through their swim bladders. As such, they usually find their way to the deep areas of the water under low or high pressure.

Fish prefer stable pressure, as the ideal water temperature, light temperature, and oxygen levels make them comfortable. This also represents a great time for fishing, as the actions of the fish can be easily predicted.

Does barometric pressure actually affect fishing?

Yes, barometric pressure affects fishing. This is because a slight change in barometric pressure causes alters fish behavior, thereby affecting fishing techniques. The two major effects of barometric pressure on fish are changes in location and feeding habits.

As such, an angler might have to change their tactics to match the change in fish behavior. This can manifest in the form of casting depth and bait presentation.

Conclusion

The key to having a successful fishing trip is preparation. As an expert angler, your preparation is incomplete if you fail to factor in barometric pressure.

Check the weather forecast before leaving your base, and ensure to have a device to monitor it subsequently. This can be in the form of a handheld barometer or a weather app on your mobile phone. This way, you can be sure to stay safe and prepared for a successful fishing trip.

Daniel O’Neill
Fishing Expert
Daniel specializes in fly, predator, and saltwater angling. He has practiced angling from a young age, quickly developing his knowledge of fishing fundamentals. His angling journey began in Ireland, primarily targeting rainbow trout on a fly rod. His passion for angling grew extensively as he ventured into other forms of fishing. He primarily targets freshwater and saltwater destinations in Ireland and the UK. His favorite catch to date was a 7lb / 3.6KG thick-lipped mullet from the Northern Irish coast—a prized fish to target on a fly rod. He is now the owner of DON Angling, a business that intends to inform and educate anglers on the best techniques, methods, and etiquette available.
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