Barometric Pressure And Fishing: How Weather Affects The Bite

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Being a successful angler involves extensive knowledge of the many different types of lure presentations, when and where to use them, as well as having a working knowledge of what type of gear and tackle you need. Despite all these fundamentals, the weather is still one of the single-most influential factors that affects how and when fish bite. 


For many fishermen, the weather can be quite an enigma that can be your greatest ally one minute and turn things south in the next. If you’re looking for answers as to how the weather and barometric pressure affects fish behavior and feeding times, we’ve compiled this article to help make sense of the topic in a way that even the most inexperienced angler can understand. 

What Is Barometric Pressure?

A close up image of an antique banjo barometer

Barometric pressure is the measuring of air pressure in the atmosphere around us. To put it more simply, it’s the amount of weight that each air molecule puts out and is something that is constantly changing. Understanding barometric pressure is the key to knowing how the weather will affect fish behavior and giving you greater fishing success. 

Since barometric pressure is the weight that is produced by the air pressing down on everything on the planet, it also has quite an effect on creatures underwater since they, too, will feel this pressure. It’s very important to note when the air pressure is rising, or when there is falling pressure or low pressure for a specific length of time. 

The Relationship between Barometric Pressure and Weather

Atmospheric pressure has a direct impact on our weather. There are numerous factors that cause the barometric pressure to shift, but we will focus on the results of those changes as it is the most important aspect of understanding the relationship between fish behavior and the pressure systems that come our way. 

Low pressure systems are associated with precipitation, warm air, higher winds, and bad weather conditions that have a drastic impact on whether or not fish will bite.

The fact that the air pressure is lower opens the door to our atmosphere being able to produce these changes, which might vary from a slightly windy or rainy day to a full blown tornado in some cases. 

As the air pressure drops with low pressure systems, you can expect clouds to form, as well as rain and moisture to also develop and bring on stormy weather. Fish are capable of easily sensing this change in their environment and they react to it, in some cases, by feeding very aggressively and being more active. 

High pressure systems are when the air gets heavier and results in bright, clear days that might often be very warm. These high pressure systems are a result of a number of factors that are related to low pressure and are an interesting part of how our weather works throughout the world. 

How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Fishing?

The secret to being able to take advantage of those magical times when the weather is changing and there seems to be a feeding frenzy requires anglers to be aware of the air pressure in their area and whether it’s rising or falling at a certain point in time.

Through both rising and falling barometer conditions, you’ll see a direct correlation between barometric pressure readings and how it can trigger fish activity. 

Every avid angler will agree that the best time to be on the water is during a shift when a low pressure system is moving in and bringing falling pressure, fish respond with an increase in activity. Every species of fish has what’s known as air bladders, which is an inflated sac of air inside their bodies which helps them monitor their own buoyancy. 

Low pressure systems and their barometric pressure affect fish in such a way that lessens the pressure they feel on this part of their bodies, making it easier for them to swim and go after their prey. This is the main reason why atmospheric pressure is directly related to how much fish will bite on any given day. 

The various pressure changes that occur not only affect fish, but also every other type of lifeform in any type of marine environment. The reason why a low pressure formation might be the more favorable barometric pressure for fishing is because the pressure drop will influence fluctuations related to a fish’s diet. 

What is a Good Barometric Pressure for Fishing?

As we’ve already noted, the absolute best barometric pressure conditions in regards to fishing will always be an incoming low pressure system which decreases the atmospheric pressure and makes fish feel more lively and free to swim around.

You can always count on a low pressure system to make fish feel more like feeding, which is why so many expert anglers commonly pay very close attention to the barometric pressure before their fishing trip. 
While falling barometric pressure indicates a great opportunity to catch fish, a stable pressure system that is already low and remains that way is actually quite poor in terms of how active fish will be.

Fish will still be somewhat active during these times of low barometric pressure, but you’ll likely have to go after them with a slower approach in deeper water. 

In addition to their swim bladder, fish are also equipped with other pressure sensing systems and sensory organs that help them pick up on any types of movement and vibrations in the water around them. Their swim bladders will expand as air pressure changes and pressure drops. 

Depending on the water temperature during the best barometric pressure conditions, you might have to target fish in deeper waters. These times of falling barometric pressure might disrupt their predictable feeding routines and cause them to feed more heavily.

Based on how atmospheric pressure makes fish feel, it’s easy to understand why an incoming low pressure system is the best barometric pressure for fishing. 

What is the worst barometric pressure for fishing?

Based on the reasons why fish react the way they do to different levels of barometric pressure, it makes sense that a high pressure system is going to be much less productive than a lower barometric pressure system. According to most avid anglers, times of stable high pressure or even when pressure rises are often the worst in terms of whether or not predatory fish will be active. 

These times of high barometric pressure put more strain on a fish’s air bladder and can even cause it to feel pain in extreme cases of higher pressure. The high atmospheric pressure also affects other creatures in a fish’s habitat and rising pressure usually equates to fish being somewhat active, but this kind of conditions are certainly not ideal barometric pressure for fishing. 

Regardless of what the weather conditions are like and what the barometric pressure is at any time, fish are required to eat a certain amount of food every so often in order to survive. It’s true that you can catch fish during a high pressure system, but you will likely have to resort to different fishing tactics and go after them in deep water around heavy cover. 

If you think about how fish will react to a rising or falling barometer, consider how certain pressure changes will affect their swim bladders and what happens when fish sense the actual air pressure in their swim bladder. 

Barometric Pressure Chart for Fishing

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How to monitor atmospheric pressure

Old wooden jetty, pier, during storm on the sea. Dramatic sky with dark, heavy clouds. Vintage
Pay attention to things like the moon phase, surface temperature, and especially local weather patterns

In order to become a true expert angler, it’s important for you to pay attention to things like the moon phase, surface temperature, and especially local weather patterns to identify the best barometric pressure for fishing. Be sure to monitor things like the water temperature at the lake or area where you plan to fish as this might give you an idea of where fish are likely to be in the water column. 

The best way to monitor conditions and decipher when the best barometric pressure is going to occur in your general area is to keep an eye on trusted sources like the National Weather Service in the United States. You might also keep your own barometer as a means to detect the slightest changes in your immediate area. 

Some fish finders now come equipped with barometers, which also greatly enhances your ability to keep track of high pressure and the ideal barometric pressure for fishing, as well as other factors. 

Bass, walleye, crappie and other species: How Barometric Pressure affects the bite

storm picture of fisherman in the rain
Fishing can be great during the rain for certain species

Bass

A sharp change in air pressure can have a drastic effect on the behavior of small bait fish like shad or minnows. When the baseline pressure starts to drop, these small fish will take advantage of the zooplankton and phytoplankton that can be found floating in the upper water column. Bass are one particular species of game fish that will become more active and go after these smaller fish as the pressure shifts. 

Bass will be pushed into deeper water when high pressure moves through due to the fact that they can’t quickly regulate their buoyancy in a way that would let them swim up to the surface and stay there very long. 

Walleye

fisherman holding a trophy walleye in a boat with the sun behind him
During a time of rising or falling barometric pressure, walleye are more likely to attack a swimbait, crankbait or spinnerbait

Walleye are another larger type of freshwater fish that will usually react to pressure changes in a way that’s similar to bass. During a time of rising or falling barometric pressure, walleye are more likely to attack a swimbait, crankbait or spinnerbait that’s fished in a way that allows you to target prime feeding areas for the best chance to connect with a hungry fish. 

Crappie

White crappie being gripped by thumb
Incoming stormy weather is a surefire time for some fine fishing

Crappie will often be much more inclined to bite when the air pressure starts to shift. Experienced crappie anglers know that any incoming stormy weather is a surefire time for some fine fishing because the sharp drop in pressure triggers them to feed more aggressively and also to venture into other areas where they might not go when there is high pressure that keeps them at a certain place in the water column. 

Trout

Fly fisherman catching trout in river under the rain
Trout bite in a range of conditions including on rainy days

Trout live in relatively shallow water compared to the other freshwater fish species we’ve mentioned. It’s interesting to note that, unlike these other fish, trout actually become more active when a high pressure system develops. 

Low air pressure causes a trout’s bladder to expand much more, which leads to them becoming very uncomfortable and seeking deeper water. If you notice a system that’s bringing high pressure into the area, it’s likely to be a good time to visit your favorite trout stream or river. 

Final thoughts on barometric pressure and fishing

By being aware of the specific weather forecast and conditions in your area, you’ll be able to quickly and easily pick up on what should be the best barometric pressure for the type of fish you want to catch. Seasoned anglers know that it’s highly important to be on the water as these pressure changes occur as the window of opportunity might only last a short while. If you use the tips and information we’ve outlined, you’ll have a good sense of when to plan your next fishing trip when the weather starts to change. 

Author

  • Donny Karr is a respected fishing writer and passionate fisherman who loves targeting largemouth bass and a range of other species.

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