Spring is here --- or rapidly approaching --- in many areas of the country, and anglers are ready to hit the water.
With that in mind, I’m sharing below an excerpt from my book Better Bass Fishing on how weather influences fish behavior.
If you like what you read, I hope that you’ll consider buying the book. It contains much more information to help you “read” the weather, as well as additional “secrets” to make you a better fisherman.
Weather influences fish behavior. Probably every angler can remember times when fish turned on or off because of a change in the weather. But science and myth mix freely when fishermen try to understand and explain why fish behavior alters because of high pressure, low pressure, wind, and other weather variables. The following should help you better understand why and how bass really are affected and, as a result, just could help make you a better fisherman.
Generally moving from west to east, areas of high and low pressure determine our weather.
As high pressure moves in, winds tend to blow clockwise and away from the center. Weather within the center of a high-pressure area features clear sky, dry air, little or no wind, and cooler temperatures. Especially during fall and winter, high pressure brings sunny, blue-bird skies, cold winds, and poor fishing.
With the approach of a low-pressure area, the wind blows counter clockwise and toward the center. Weather within the center of a low-pressure area features cloudy sky, high humidity, light winds, steadier temperatures, and possibly precipitation. Fishing almost always is better under these conditions.
Changes occur as one type of pressure is pushed out by another. A low pressure area moving in typically brings unstable weather and falling barometric pressure. Falling pressure, anglers know, typically coincides with better fishing.
But maybe not for the reason that many believe. Some think that high pressure makes fish uncomfortable, which is why they don’t bite well upon the arrival of fair weather and a rising barometer. They also believe that falling pressure prompts fish to become more active.
Actually, what probably happens is that falling pressure allows plankton and tiny invertebrates to become more buoyant and float upward. This makes them easier prey for shad and minnows. The increased activity of these forage species, in turn, triggers bass and other game fish to feed.
Or, falling pressure simply might be an indicator of more favorable conditions overall, according to Bob Ponds, a former professional angler who worked as a radar specialist and supervisor for the U.S. Air Force and the National Weather Service.
“If you have falling pressure, you’re going to have high humidity and clouds. It will be darker and the fish will stray out farther from where they have been hiding and they will bite better,” he says. “Barometric pressure doesn’t affect how fish bite so much as it indicates conditions that affect how they will bite.”
And what happens when the barometer rises? Why do the fish stop biting? Here’s one theory:
“When you’ve got a rising barometer, fish are going to seek eddies and structure to take the pressure off them,” says Sam Griffin, a lure maker and guide on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. “We can feel a temperature change. They can feel a pressure change. We think that fish hide in cover and behind structure to feed. They also do it to rest.”
Secret: Changing atmospheric pressure is not as likely to affect fish behavior in rivers and streams as it is in lakes and impoundments. That’s because water flow in these fisheries is a more dominating factor for increasing or decreasing pressure than is the air.