This is actually one of the most important questions a fisherman can ask. The answer is that the weather for one of the largest determining factors in how fish act. The conditions around a fish directly affect how, when and where it bites.
However, there is more to fishing than whether it is clear or rainy. Weather systems, rising and falling barometric pressure, air and water temperatures, and rain all have an important say in deciding on the best times to fish.
For information on the best time to go saltwater fishing see our post here.
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Barometric pressure and Fishing
Mercury barometers measure pressure using a column of mercury in a glass tube. As pressure changes the height of the mercury column changes, dropping as air pressure falls, and rising as air pressure increases.
What does this have to do with fishing you ask? Fish have an organ called a swim bladder. The swim bladder is a gas-filled sac that controls the fish’s buoyancy and in some species is important for hearing. As barometric pressure changes, so does the behaviour of the fish due to the effect of pressure on the swim bladder.
Here are a few ways weather and barometric pressure can change fish behaviour.
- Higher Pressures — 30.50 + with clear skies – Fish are generally medium to slower to bite. They tend to hang out near cover or in deeper water.
- Medium Pressure — 29.70 – 30.40 — with fairer weather – mostly typical fishing conditions with different baits and gear to anticipate the needs of the fish.
- Low Pressure — 29.60 and poor weather – Slower fishing. Fish stay in deeper water or under cover.
- Rising Pressure — clearing weather – The fish are slightly more active but remain deeper.
- Stable Pressure — good weather – Normal Fishing. fish are active and feeding. This is a great time to experiment with your baits and gear.
- Falling Pressure/Degrading Weather – The best time to fish. the fish are feeding aggressively and likely to hit anything.
You can also take a look at our post here on barometric pressure and fishing for more information.
What is the best water temperature for fishing?
Water temperature is important when you are fishing because most fish, like humans, have different temperatures they prefer. Certain fish seem to be more active when they have reached a specific body temperature range and because they are cold-blooded the water is what regulates them. These temperature ranges may differ from place to place and from year to year depending on how hungry the fish are, but they are a great basic indicator:
Redfish are most active between 63 and 78 degrees.
Trout are most active between 60 and 80 degrees.
Snook are most active between 70 and 85 degrees
Tarpon are most active between 75 and 85 degrees
What is the best air temperature for fishing?
The only affect air temperature has on the fish is related to how the air temperature heats or cools the water. Air temperature has a very slow effect on water, especially larger bodies of it. It takes a long time for the air temperature to change the after by even a few degrees.
Hot weather and Air temperatures are more likely to affect you while you are fishing than have any real effect on the best time for fishing.
Rain and Thunderstorms and fishing
While light rain doesn’t have much effect on times to fish, weather conditions like Rain and Thunderstorms affect water temperature when the water is warm. They do this by creating a thin cool layer on the surface. The temperature of the water before the storm determines how long that cool layer will remain before being absorbed by the main body of water.
Most of the time that calm just after a hard thunderstorm on a hot July afternoon will produce some of the best times to fish, especially for those of you wanting to throw topwater lures.
That cool surface layer seems to bring everything to the top. Whether it is the bait that lures the hunters or if they are both drawn by the cool layer is unsure. One theory is that bait fish are drawn to the surface, and the predators can now see them better without all the waves and rain disturbing the surface. Whatever the reason, that first 30 minutes just after a storm has produced some of the best times for fishing on topwater.
Rain can also cause a flow of freshwater into the river can also really turn on a feed. Try fishing a culvert or other freshwater outflow just after a good downpour. This is often a great time to fish Snook and Tarpon who are drawn to these outflow areas.
In these areas also pay attention to the type of bait that has come into the nutrient reach water to feed. When fishing these areas try to match the hatch.
Now with this in mind, when that storm comes pushing through on a summer afternoon and messes up your day. check out the radar to see when it will be gone, grab your rod and reel, head out to the river and wait for the games to begin fishing best time. Always remember this when you’re fly fishing in the rain.
Water levels and Fishing
The height of the water and water temperature are key factors in determining where fish will be feeding. The depth determines what fish can get into an area to feed and how warm or cool the water is going to be. Keeping this in mind here are some trends to consider.
High Water Fishing
When the water is high this opens up many possibilities to the number and type of fish you may find. On the flats, a new feeding area could open in areas where the water seasonally recedes. Bait and predators both move up on these new flats in these conditions in search of food they were unable to reach just days before.
When the water levels have first risen is when these areas produce some of the best fishing times, perfect for fishing high water.
One of the keys to fishing these freshly flooded areas is to fish them before the water rises. By doing this you know where the best ambush spots are going to be. Fish will move into those small dips along the grassy shoreline. Rocky areas that were only a few inches to a foot deep last week will become hot spots.
Keep your eyes open for the trees that now have water under them. These are the spots that Snook and Trout love to move into. Check out our post here for more snook fly fishing techniques.
Low Water Fishing
Low water fishing can be just as good as high water fishing on the flats. When the water level drops it pushes fish to the outer edge of the flats and into holes. It also causes fish to group up in larger schools and makes the competition more aggressive. The bait will move onto the shallower areas and the predators will set up their ambush nearby. The key to fishing these areas is stealth. When you see areas with large schools of bait try and make your casts from as far away as possible. When predators are hiding in shallow water they are very spooky and will leave at the first sign of danger.
Is it good to fish when it is windy?
The most important question you need to ask about fishing when it is windy is if it is dangerous. The second most important question you need to ask is if you can still cast. If the answer to either of those questions is no, then you should have no problems fishing when there is a wind, especially if you can find some shelter. Only prolonged or very severe windy weather conditions should affect how the fish bite.
There are Pros and cons to windy and calm days. The trick is to learn to use the advantages of the weather conditions to your favor.
How to fish on Windy days
Some of the best fishing is on windy days. The rules for catching fish can be harsh though. The first thing you must always be aware of the amount of noise you are making.
If you intend to fish quietly, wade fishing will give you a big advantage. When you wade you don’t have to deal with the lapping waves on the boat, drifting too fast to get a good cast, or wind pushing you into water too shallow to motor out of.
Wind can have its disadvantages. If you pole a lot, fishing in the wind can be pretty exhausting. Wind also makes it harder to spot fish when sight casting and you can only cast effectively at any distance in one direction.
The advantages are you don’t have to worry as much about talking and movement in the boat. The waves make enough noise to cover most sounds that would scare the fish. You can also fish a flat a little more stealthy by setting up a good drift. This is one of those times a good drift sock can be useful. You can also make some great casts as long as you keep the wind at your back.
On windy days you may also notice that bait fish will seek out calmer water. This can be a good time to fish as long as the fish that feed on them look for this too. The worst thing about days like this is you just don’t know. You have to look at all the factors and try and determine if you have a chance.
Fishing in calm or flat water
Calm, flat water may sound like a piece of cake when you compare it to a windy day, but that is not always true. On a calm day, there are a lot more rules you have to follow to be successful when sight fishing the flats. Once again, the number one thing to keep in mind is noise.
When the water is calm and clear, fish can see and hear you much further away and are spookier than normal. Calm water is not always the best of fishing times.
If you follow these rules you will find your fishing to be much more productive:
Move slowly when trying to find fish. If you are poling, do so as quietly as possible. Do not make any sudden jerky movements.
Wear natural colors that will match your background. choose soft blues, greys and other colors that blend in with the environment. Do not wear that chanteuse or hot pink shirt you just bought.
When you cast, lead the fish. Remember, casting a lure to fish is just like throwing rocks at them. Cast from as far away as you can.
If the fish come to the boat, let them pass by. Don’t move. Don’t cast. Act like a statue. Let them move 20 feet or so away before you start casting again. If you say as still as possible and let them go you are going to have a better shot at catching one.
Best fishing lures for clear water
Water clarity is one of those topics that it seems like everyone who has ever held a rod in their hand has an opinion about. I have heard so many different ideas that it makes my head swim. I have found one simple rule that has worked well for me. I follow the rules nature has already set in place, Match the Hatch.
It makes sense that fish can see better when the water is clearer. Always keep in mind that they can see you in many cases long before you see them.
The best fishing lures for clear water are soft-colored. Try to choose lures that resemble the natural bait in the area. Use clear lures with flakes. Also, be careful with top water plugs. When the water is crystal clear fish are more apt to spook easily when sight fished. Work you lures slowly, try to make them look like an easy meal.
Best fishing lures for murky water
When you are fishing in murky water and visibility is low, low use brighter-colored lures with more action. Often when the water is murked up fish hunt more by the action and smell than they do sight. When working top water, use noisy lures to grab their attention. Also, try adding scents to your lures, it will help get your cast noticed.
Fish aren’t typically as spooky when the water is like this. You can often get right on top of them before they spook off. They also seem to settle down a lot faster if you do spook them by accident.
Try using bright-coloured soft lures with bright tails. Bounce them across the bottom with sharp upward jerks. Fish will almost always strike on the fall when you are working a lure this way. The upward movement grabs their attention, then they come in for the kill on the fall. Remember to check our post here for some of the types of fun fishing lures.
Fishermen often talk about the best conditions and fishing times, but there is no real best time. Fishing always about what you make of the conditions you are given. Whether you are fishing during a cold front, or in a light rain in deep water think about what you are doing and how the fish will react. We all dream of perfect conditions when the fish are hitting everything we cast, but usually, that isn’t the case — so make the weather patterns work for you