I am sure it has probably happened to you before at some point. You are out fishing and having a great time, catching plenty of fish with almost every cast. Later, you head back to the same exact spot (it could even be the very next day), and all of a sudden, you can’t catch a fish to save your life. What happened?
Barometric pressure has a big effect on surf fishing and fish activity. During changes in barometric pressure, the fish activity will usually increase as fish prepare for the change in air pressure. Surf fishing will generally be better and more productive during periods of extended high barometric pressure.
If this has ever happened to you, I am sure that you have probably scratched your head in puzzlement and wondered if maybe it was just bad luck.
While that is possible, there are plenty of different things that can almost instantly turn a good bite off.
Some of these factors could include things like fishing pressure, changes in water conditions, or even boat traffic. It does not take a lot to change the habits and behaviors of many fish!
But, all of these different factors aside, one of the biggest influences on fish and their behavior is barometric pressure.
With that being said, it is also a little surprising that this is one of the most misunderstood fishing factors amongst many anglers.
We have all heard about barometric pressure, but how many of us have actually used it to determine our fishing habits?
This can be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to catching fish and catching them much more
What is Barometric Pressure?
So, what is barometric pressure? Barometric pressure is basically the overall weight of the air that is pressing down on us. It can also sometimes be called atmospheric or even air pressure.
This might seem a little strange to think about, but you have to realize that even air has some weight to it, 14.7 pounds per square inch around sea level to be exact.
If you are at a higher elevation than sea level, then the overall amount of “weight” is lessened by about 85 percent. Because we are so used to the air pressure, we do not really feel it.
But even though we might not take notice of it, it still has a big effect on all of the food chains, both above and below the water.
So if you take a minute to think about it, if you take every square inch on the surface of the water and think about the weight it must be under, you can start to understand the pressure that fish are under in your favorite fishing spot.
This is put into even more perspective when you consider the ocean and how massive it is.
How much pressure is on the water itself, and in turn, on the fish?
It is quite a bit, and fish have evolved to respond to it.
In addition to the altitude above sea level, both high and low-pressure weather will have an effect on the barometric pressure.
In addition to having weather patterns affect it, you will also see a few fluctuations during your average day, namely when the sun heats everything up, and when it cools back down.
Even the slightest changes in the barometric pressure can cause a difference in fish behavior. This is because it has a big change in the water, which, in turn, affects the fish.
Think of it in this way: a change in the pressure will cause some minor changes in gravity within the water. This will upset the natural balance, and cause things to sink, suspend, or float when they otherwise not.
All of these differences are what cause the fish to change their normal behaviors.
Related Post: Do Moon Phases Affect Surf Fishing?
A standard barometric reading at sea level is usually around 29.92 InHg, but anywhere between 29.85 and 30.00 InHg is pretty standard for a beach area.
So, any pressure above or below these levels is generally considered a high or low-pressure system.
What is the Effect of Barometric Pressure on Fishing?
This is one of the biggest influences on fish behavior, and barometric pressure plays a key role in this.
If you understand the different weather patterns and characteristics, you can better understand how to effectively fish and be more successful.
Fish are creatures of habit, and when the slightest thing is out of the ordinary, they will break their normal routines.
Weather and barometric pressure are two things that they do not like variances in, so if you pay attention to both of these factors, you can better understand what the fish are doing and how to better approach your fishing.
How Does the Barometric Pressure Affect Fish?
Believe it or not, fish are a lot more in tune with their surroundings and the environment in general than most fishermen give them credit for.
Most fish have a large variety of different pressure-sensitive organs and systems, like their lateral line.
This is a big sensory organ that fish use to detect movement and vibrations in the water.
While different fish will behave differently to different variations, many of the changes in behavior go along with weather-related variations such as water temperature, light penetration, water clarity, and many other factors that change their food supply and cover.
You can almost compare it to a chain reaction. Let’s say the pressure drops, which causes some tiny particles of sediment and other microscopic material to float up off of the bottom of the water higher than it usually does.
This could then effectively dirty up the water, drastically reducing any visibility.
Low visibility water will affect quite a bit in the water, but it can go even further than there. Tiny organisms such as zooplankton are at the lowest end of the food chain.
These tiny organisms can easily be caught off guard by variances in the pressure, which pushes them to do things out of nature, which can cause a feeding frenzy among the fish that feed on them.
This then attracts the bigger game fish, which can also start a feeding spree.
One of the biggest results of barometric pressure changes and changes in the environment is often lack of feeding or feeding frenzies.
This is because most fish are predators and are constantly dealing with variations in pressure and changes in the water columns.
For example, a fish that is sitting down 10 to 15 feet under the water will have to change its natural buoyancy when it swims up to the surface to feed or inspect possible food.
Think about it this way, have you ever jumped into the deep end of a pool and had your ears pop?
Fish deal with this every minute of every day, and why even small pressure changes can trigger fish to change their habits, as they can possibly signal some future feeding opportunities or even bad weather that is to come.
How Does the Barometric Pressure Affect Fishing Conditions?
So now that we know barometric pressure has a big effect on fishing, how do you use this information to catch more fish? What type of pressure is the best, and what kind of pressure should you avoid?
To get started, it should be noted that some of the most steady and reliable fishing results should come when the barometric pressure has been overall steady for several days or more in a row.
This will mean that the fish have not seen any great changes in pressure or changes in their environment, so they should be in the normal patterns and behaviors.
This also gives fish the best ability to have somewhat predictable feeding routines, as the water temperature, oxygen levels, water clarity, and amount of light should be fairly predictable and steady.
You must pay attention to the barometer, however, as it can easily tell you of coming weather patterns that can affect the fishing.
Pressure changes can activate more fish activity, but low-pressure systems like big cold fronts and storms can easily shut it all down.
The reason fish stop biting actually has more to do with the effects of the pressure and weather changes that we have already mentioned, things like water temperature, water clarity, etc.
The key to using the barometric pressure and a barometer is understanding how it affects the fish behavior in your area. Once you do this, you can then adjust your fishing tactics to match it.
Do Fish Bite Better When the Barometric Pressure is Rising or Falling?
This can be a tricky question, as fish will behave differently in different environments.
But there are a few key indicators that you can use to determine if the fish might be biting good depending on if the barometric pressure is rising or falling.
During low-pressure situations, you might want to reconsider going fishing.
It is a good thing that low-pressure systems do not tend to last very long, as they can shut down even the best bite.
Once a falling pressure system has stabilized to a low-pressure environment, most fish will go and find deeper water to hang out in.
They do this in order to equalize their swim bladders, which helps them float or dive deep.
This will cause a noticeable slowdown in the fishing action, as fish will simply not be feeding as much since they are focused on something else and usually uncomfortable.
The more a fish is in shallow water when the pressure starts falling, the more they will be affected.
Fish will be much more sluggish and slower, which will result in fewer bites and fewer caught fish.
If you can, try fishing much slower and with smaller bait and lures. These finer, more finesse techniques will help produce a bite out of stubborn fish during low-pressure systems.
So What About Rising or High-Pressure Systems?
Once low-pressure systems start to move out, temperatures and air pressures will start to rise.
Fish will still remain slow and sluggish for a while, at least until they get readjusted to the new pressure system and environment.
But once they do, high-pressure systems are where the best fishing is usually had, especially if the fish have had a few days to get used to it.
Is High- or Low-Pressure Better for Fishing?
So, as you can see, high pressure is usually much better for fishing activity.
While this is not always the case, it is a good rule of thumb to remember the next time you are planning a fishing trip and look at the barometer.
Fish tend to be much more active and comfortable when there is a stable high pressure and will be more willing to feed.
If you have a prolonged period of high pressure and good fishing, a coming cold front (and the low pressure it brings) can easily shut it all down.
The fish can sense the coming weather patterns, and right before the high pressure begins to drop, it will change their feeding habits.
They will often feed a lot right before the pressure drops, so this can be a great opportunity to capitalize on some great fishing.
As the pressure drops, they start to become more uncomfortable and will start feeding less and less.
What is the Best Barometric Pressure?
When it comes to surf fishing, all of these same general rules and principles apply. When the barometer starts to drop, you can expect poor weather to follow soon.
Likewise, a rising barometer is also a good indication of good weather to come. So what about surf fishing? When you are surf fishing, a falling barometer is actually a good thing.
Just as long as it is not dropping too rapidly, a slow, steady dropping of pressure (such as less than .2 inches per pound) will create a great fishing opportunity to take advantage of.
But once it hits it’s low, fishing should slow down, and you will have to resort to all of your tricks to get a successful bite.
High-pressure systems and surf fishing are usually good together, or basically neutral.
A change of pressure will have the biggest effect on fish in shallower water, with deeper water not being as affected.
Overall, most fish near shore will feed much less when the barometric pressure is at its lowest or highest points.
You are much more likely to get the best action when the pressure is starting to shift up or down, as most fish will start feeding more to be well fed once the pressure changes.
We have always heard about barometric pressure and how it affects fishing actively, but how many of us have actually studied and used it in order to better our fishing trips?
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of barometric pressure in general, and some of the effects it can have on fish and their behaviors.
So next time you are planning on a fishing trip, it might be worth looking at a barometer and seeing what it has to say!