Fishing can be incredibly fickle. One day on your fishing trip you’re reeling in more fish than you can handle, and the next you haven’t had a strike for hours. It’s the same location, you’re using the same gear, and it’s the same time of day – but something has definitely changed since you aren’t catching fish.
While there are a lot of things that can switch a great fishing spot into a dud such as cold fronts, a change in feeding patterns, a change in water depth, or other factors, the barometric pressure is one of the biggest reasons you may not be aware of.
Many anglers understand that the barometer can determine good fishing, but not every angler fully understands just which of the barometric pressures alter fish behavior and will deliver aggressive and ready-to-bite game fish. Is less pressure a better choice, or will higher pressure give better results?
In short, barometric pressure is the measurement of the weight of the air. Even minor changes in the barometric pressure can affect how bigger fish behave. And since the atmospheric pressure can change quickly from day to day with a variety of weather conditions, this could be one of many factors you were hauling in trophies yesterday but not getting a single bite today.
Rising or falling barometer: which is better?
A rising barometer measurement is a good sign that the weather is clearing up and the cold front is moving off. Fish will notice this as well and will become more active than they were previously as the water pressure lessens. They will still be rather sluggish, however, so it may take some coaxing to get them to take your bait. Try using lure colors that are bright and appealing to help spark the fish’s feeding response and turn it into a fishing success.
When a lower barometric pressure begins, it means the weather is starting to change for the worse and the low pressure will be moving in. Storm systems could be moving in, or a cold front might be heading your way. With the falling pressure, deepwater game fish including are much more active and will have an increased appetite. They will be much more responsive to your lures and will strike with aggression.
Low pressure system vs high pressure system?
When a low-pressure system moves in, a storm system or cold front is not far behind it. The water is more fluid and game fish can glide through the water column easier than they could before the low pressure as there is not as much pressure on their air bladders as there was previously.
This change in weather patterns also triggers their feeding response and makes them more active in general. As a storm system approaches, it is a great time to break out some of your uncommon baits or lures since chances are good they will be taken by the predatory fish.
After a storm hits and has passed, the barometric pressure starts to rise. This high-pressure system also brings a nice clear sky, sunny days, and generally attractive weather overall. Unfortunately, this reduces smaller fish activity and makes the larger fish more lethargic due to the heavier pressure in the water which has an effect on their swim bladders, and the brighter light penetration into the deeper water. You can toss a lure in, but most anglers may not get many bites without putting in some effort by using live bait or vertical jigging to coax the fish in.
What about stable weather?
When the barometer is steady for a day or two, game fishing is at its peak. Fish are extremely active and have a strong feeding response with a steady barometer and fair weather for extended periods. The biggest downside is if the sun is shining brightly, so you may need to spend a bit more time locating the fish and bringing them out of the shadows to take your bait.
Additionally, it also makes sense that this brighter light will see fish into deeper waters. You’ll either need to work your lures a bit deeper or go for more aggressive presentations to get a strike. Keeping an eye on the barometric pressure readings or a radio tuned to the National Weather Service can turn your fishing trip into a successful time out on the water.
Walleye fishing during and after storms
Gentle rain can be an excellent time to get fish to strike your bait since it’s also a sign of changing barometric pressure. Additionally, as you see the storm moving in from the distance, this is the best time to drop your line in the water. The fish will feel this change in the air pressure and will strike hard and fast during this time. They will continue to do so until the rain gets too heavy and the water gets too muddy.
Once the rain turns a bit more stormy and the air pressure changes, even more, sediment will get stirred up in the deeper depths of the water reducing visibility and making your bait a bit less obvious to fish nearby. During the rain, use live bait rigs or other lures that are brightly colored and contrasting to the mud and silt that will be floating around to make fish bite.
After the rain has passed and the storm is moving away, the air pressure will start to change again. The fish will start to become much more lethargic and won’t be nearly as active when it comes to taking your bait. Even attempting to coax them out of the deep water might prove to be futile as the fish feel like moving into their cover after the feeding frenzy before and during the pressure changes.
How about Wind & Clouds?
Wind can cause some issues with game fishing. For one, it can make the water a bit choppy, even in lakes and ponds. This in turn causes the silt and other surface debris to stir and muddy the water. Most fish are very much visual hunters, so if they can’t see your lure in the muddy water, they won’t be able to strike it.
Additionally, wind direction can be either a benefit or a burden to your fishing plans as well. Most fish will face themselves into the wind as this is how the waves and current will move. By facing into the current, the fish are able to have easy access to small fish and other edible items that move with the current towards them.
Clouds are normally an angler’s best friend. Bright glaring sunlight in clear skies is often too much for most fish and they will retreat to the depths of heavy cover, but when the skies are cloudy the light is diffused and fish will become a bit more active if other conditions are right.
Best conditions for walleye fishing by season
Spring is an excellent time of year for minnow jigs and spinner fishing for game fish, including northern pike. The cold fronts will be moving away and the air pressure change will be noticeable. The fish will be coming out of their cold water torpor from the winter and attempting to gain weight quickly in preparation for spawning.
As such, they will be quite active and ready to take your lures and bait without too much hesitation. The weather is still cold, but is warming up, and the barometric pressure is starting to stabilize for the upcoming summer. Fishing results will be a bit more predictable and easier to get during this time of year.
During the summer, the water will be reaching its highest temperature for the year and the weather will be reaching its seasonal highs. Most fish will be chasing the baitfish that are spawning, and will be moving into the shallows as well.
You’ll have no trouble getting a walleye to take a wide variety of baits and lures including crankbaits, rubber worms, jigs, and more regardless of the barometric pressure. You’ll rarely have to worry about a storm front moving in and changing the pressure for fishing, which can be a benefit to most anglers.
During the fall, the temperatures can be a bit unpredictable so game fishing may be as well. The temperatures, barometric pressures and storms will be moving in and out of the area much quicker during this season. Consistent results when it comes to fishing for most fish will be hard to get as you are struggling with both high and low pressure changes.
Fish will still strike, but it will come down to the water temperatures and barometric pressures. Since the barometric pressure can be erratic throughout the season, it may take some trial and error on your part to see what works and what doesn’t.
Winter is a great time to try your hand at ice fishing, whether you are brand new to it or an experienced ice angler. While the surface of the water may be frozen solid, the deeper water in a large lake can still be 50 degrees or more which is plenty warm enough for fish to still be moving about and looking for some food. Most fish you locate in the somewhat warmer winter temperatures will be willing to take your bait, though may need some coaxing depending on the water temperature.
Barometric pressure ranges may be up and down throughout the winter, but you’ll mostly find low pressure systems moving through. High pressure systems will start making an appearance when the spring gets closer.