The Pressure is on: Fishing by the Barometer

The Pressure is on: Fishing by the Barometer

Anglers are always looking for the one gadget or gizmo that will give them an edge over their quarry. Some of us literally have storage units full of rods, reels, baits and accessories that were bought with the idea “this is the ONE thing I need to catch more fish!”

We all know how that goes. It’s also a big reason anglers in Indiana spend almost $800 million dollars every year. Unfortunately for my bank account, it appears that Your Faithful Correspondent accounts for a significant portion of that yearly total.

The funny thing is that one of the all-time best angling tools was developed in the mid-1600’s; about the same time that angling actually became “a thing.” Today, your iPhone 6 or Android device even includes one of these valuable instruments: a barometer.

In an effort to understand the effects of weather on fishing during this strange season, I started researching everything I could find on the topic. After endless hours of reading some of the most damnably dull research papers you could imagine, along with all sorts of contradictory advice from the Internet Commandos mixed with a serious amount of field research (fishing trips), I’ve come to realize that the “old fashioned” advice about fishing the barometer is absolutely true.

Let’s start with some quick review. Weather systems are caused by varying areas of high and low atmospheric pressure; when we speak of atmospheric pressure, we are referring to the actual weight of air pushing down on the surface of earth. Typically, low pressure systems appear ahead of bad weather while high pressure is usually the courier of pleasant days. Barometric pressure was first measured by the use of a calibrated glass containing the element mercury and here in the U.S. we still measure and report atmospheric pressure in inches of mercury. Average readings range from about 29.50 inches of mercury to around 31.00; readings higher or lower are considered exceptional.

The important point, however, is not the barometer reading itself but rather what the pressure has been doing for the past several hours. This change in pressure is what causes fish to become more or less active. There are many so-far unproven explanations for this behavior, which varies according to species, but it been observed in nearly all.

So, in a nutshell, here are the key indicators to look for regarding barometric pressure in relation to fishing activity:

High pressure (30.50+) - High pressure brings along those nice, sunny days following a storm system but fishing is usually tough. This is a time to fish slow and deep. Medium Pressure (28.7-30.4) - This usually brings fair weather and normal fishing. Low pressure (29.6 or below) - Cloudy, rainy weather that typically slows the fishing down, especially in the colder months. However, fishing during the early part of a storm system is often very good. Rising pressure- Rising pressure typically brings improving weather and slowly improving fishing. Falling pressure- The fish will generally go on a feeding spree as the barometer drops. If you can be on the water right as a front comes through, the bite is often explosive. Stable pressure- Stable pressure brings the most consistent fishing. After 24 hours of steady pressure, the fish resume their “normal” feeding patterns and become easier to target.

One of the easiest ways to keep an eye on the barometric pressure while fishing is with your smart phone. As mentioned, many newer Android and iPhone models contain a barometer and there are apps that instantly provide a graph of the trends. You can also go “old school” and purchase an analog fishing barometer from any of the major outdoor retailers.

Another method for checking the barometric pressure is to go online with the National Weather Service at http://weather.gov. Find the page with current conditions for your location; next to it will be link to “3 Day History.” If you click on that link, you find a table of hourly barometric pressure readings recorded at the nearest major airport. So far we haven’t found a good location for real-time charts of the pressure trends.

Of course, nothing is perfect and you will sometimes find that the fish don’t bother to check with the weather service and ignore all the “conventional” wisdom. I still remember the cloudless September day when nothing should have been biting but my buddies and I pulled a dozen trophy walleye from the White river on the south side of Indianapolis. I guess that’s why fishing never gets boring.

Exasperating, frustrating and occasionally even nauseating, but never boring!

Article courtesy of The Sportsman. Click Here to subscribe to The Sportsman for more journalism, opinion and stories from the sporting life.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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