Note: This has been my experience with saltwater fly fishing but a lot of the same principles apply when nymph fly fishing too.
What is Barometric Pressure?
My Experiences With Fishing and Barometric Pressure
My quest was set in motion one day when I saw fish everywhere and none of them would eat anything I tossed at them. Then out of nowhere, they started feeding on everything they came across. The fishing was crazy! I just had to know why.
What happened at that point to cause the fishing conditions to drastically change? Was the answer in the stars or was it something much simpler? I made logs of all weather conditions: Moon phase, wind speed and direction, water temperature, salinity, time of day, cloud cover, what I had for lunch the day before. Well, maybe not the lunch but everything I thought could affect fishing conditions.
Before I go any further let me say that as much as I would like to say I have this down to a science, I haven’t reached that point yet. Remember this is nature I am trying to predict. Although the trends I have found work most of the time in this area nature has proven me wrong regularly. As with everything in fishing, it’s not 100% science.
Different species of fish seem to tolerate and adapt to barometric pressure changes in as many ways as there are different fish. Most of the logs that I have kept have been about the factors that affect redfish fishing. I have some information about sea trout, snook and tarpon but especially snook and tarpon seem to have their own rules when it comes to their feeding habits in differing weather conditions.
For the most part, it has been my experience that the main affect pressure changes have on fishing is where the fish will feed.
There are a few exceptions but generally, the fish appear to feed better on the surface of the water when the pressure is falling and on the bottom when the pressure is rising.
Here is an example:
Over the past few years, I have watched schools of redfish bust anything that moved on the surface of the water in the morning. As the sun rose an the pressure climbed the same fish began to swim closer to the bottom. The fish were still as active as in the morning but were feeding more on subsurface baits.
By midday, the pressure started to fall and once again the reds started feeding on the surface of the water. I know a lot of people would say that topwater fishing is only good in the early morning and it was the all due to the suns position. In some cases I would agree, however, I have also had countless days where I have had the pressure remains low or falling all day, on cloudless days, and the topwater feed stays on all day.
How barometric pressure influences fish behavior
Some people like high pressure while others prefer a low. It has been my experience that both can be good. As with all things there can be too much of a good thing either way. With that in mind, I will try to define what I call each and the fishing and weather trends I have noticed.
High pressure (Pressure over 30.20)
When the pressure is high bait stops coming to the surface of the water. Mullet stop jumping. Birds sit on the top of the water too (if you see them at all).
The fish seem to be laying on the bottom and in many cases not willing to eat anything except dead or cut bait if anything.
Low pressure (Pressure below 29.80)
There are many similarities between high and low pressure but with a few minor exceptions. Mullet will remain somewhat active. The birds won’t sit on the water and will continue to fly around but they don’t seem to feed much.
The fish are moving around. They appear nervous and spooky. Fish will feed but most have to be caught when fishing from a distance.
The key to most good days is a moving pressure. The fish do act differently on a rising and falling but the good news is they are feeding. The worst thing that can happen on most of these days is the pressure gets too high or low.
When the pressure is rising most of the fish I have watched become a little spooky. They are almost always hungry but leery of topwater plugs. Most of the time fish be found feeding in one area all day. I have had days like this I have only had to pole a few hundred yards. If the fish do spook off they will come back within a few minutes.
Once the pressure gets above 30.10 most days I will use suspending lures that can be worked slowly in shallow water. Once the pressure gets above 30.20 I change out to soft plastics and jerk warms.
A falling pressure is by far my favourite for a few reasons. The fish become very tolerate of topwater plugs. They will take just about anything you throw at them. They don’t spook off as easy and are on the move. It is on these days you can watch schools of fish work a shoreline busting everything in sight. On crazy weather days like this, they will work an area sometimes a few miles long. The good news is most of the time it is just up and down one flat.
This is the killer. I have had so many days when the pressure just sits there and so do the fish. I have poled over them and them not spook. I have had them sit in the shadow of my boat. I have almost stepped on them. The worst thing is they just don’t want to eat. You may get one every now and again but most of the time nothing.
What Is The Best Barometric Pressure For Fishing?
My favourite conditions are between 29.95 and 30.05.
The most important thing is that the pressure is moving. Now, this is not to say that the fishing isn’t good at other times. This is just my personal favourite.
Exceptions to the rule
As with everything, there are always exceptions to the rules. I have had days when the pressure was 30.40 and the reds were eating everything. This was in the middle of the winter and the water was 36º. I have also had days when the pressure was 29.58 and fish were just about jumping in the boat.
I think the thing you have to do to determine what the days have in store is to watch the bait and birds. If the pressure is high or low and you don’t see a sign of life. You may need to call the day short.
When should I stay at home?
There is almost always something going on. The only difference is whether or not it’s a banner day. If you become too obsessed with the factors you are going to take all the things that make fishing fun. Even when the weather conditions are absolutely terrible, even then you may miss that big one.
Remember, you are always just one cast away from that big one.
There really much in the way of a specific fishing barometer available on Amazon. Any barometer will do. I currently have this digital one placed by the front door so I know what’s happening as soon as I leave. For more information on the best time to go saltwater fishing see our post here.
- Active Barometer...
- Dims: 4.5" x 2.25" x .75"...
- Actual live barometer...
- Time, Temperature,...
- Requires-AAA batteries...
Should I take your word for it?
Absolutely Not! These are just a few of the observations I have made over the years. I have talked with people from all over the world about this and just as I would expect, many of the fish in their area follow different rules.
Like I was saying earlier, these rules don’t seem to have as much impact on tarpon and snook. They seem to be more influenced by moon phase than anything.
If I have made you think about a few things or have helped out a little with the things I have found then my object was accomplished.
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