Best Barometric Pressure For Fishing
By Sean Ward
Re-printed with permission from
https://www.ontrackfishing.com/barometric-pressure-and-fishing/


There are all kinds of things that you must keep track of when you’re going fishing. 

From the type of bait you use, to the rod that works best for a given species of fish, the list of things you have to remember can feel overwhelming. However, knowing the best barometric pressure for fishing is something you absolutely cannot overlook. When you’re considering the best times of day to fish, barometric pressure is one of those daily and seasonal fluctuations that will play a huge role in how many fish you catch – if any. Here’s a quick guide to understanding barometric pressure as it relates to your fishing. 

What Is Barometric Pressure?

Barometric pressure is also referred to as “atmospheric pressure.” It is simply the force that is created by the weight of the air...But wait – isn’t air weightless? 

To a certain extent, yes. However, the combination of water vapor, gas atoms, and an assortment of other particles all produce a light force on the surface of the earth. At the top of a mountain, you are going to have less air above you than if you were at sea level. Therefore, a location at altitude has a lower barometric pressure than one at sea level. 

While barometric pressure remains relatively consistent in a climate, many factors can influence fluctuations related to local weather patterns. These weather patterns create pressure ridges of air that impact the barometric pressure. Numerous factors can impact barometric pressure, but it is ultimately determined by the temperature and the movement of the atmosphere. These two factors can cause both high and low pressure.

While high pressure usually creates weather conditions that are clear, dry, and calm, low pressure gives you those days that are undeniably miserable – cloudy, windy, and wet. As a general rule of thumb, air tends to travel from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, which can intensify the weather conditions I mentioned above. 

The lower the barometric pressure is in a given area, the closer to the surface the bad weather will fall – and the worse the weather will get where you are, too. 

What Are The Normal Ranges Of Barometric Pressure?

As I mentioned a moment ago, the biggest predictor of barometric pressure will be the local environment. If you live at a high altitude, your barometric pressure will likely be lower. However, there are also “normal” ranges that you might experience and can reference to determine whether it is a high or low-pressure day.

A baseline pressure that can be used is about 29-30 inHg (inches Mercury). 

Again, this depends on your elevation – so you will want to keep track of your local weather patterns to determine the baseline conditions in your area. As a storm system moves into your area, those readings are going to change. Right in the middle of a storm, barometric pressure readings will be low – about 26 to 29, in general...But as the storm moves out, the barometric pressure will begin to rise. The pressure will gradually creep back up to normal. If it gets higher than 30 inHg, it can be considered a “high pressure” day. 

How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Fishing? 

If you’re an experienced angler, you probably already know that the weather impacts fishing. Therefore, it stands to reason that barometric pressure impacts fishing, too, since it affects the weather...Here’s how.

Physiological Changes

Although fish are far beneath the surface of the water, they can still sense the changes in atmospheric pressure. This is because their organs experience a change of pressure. Fish feel the changes in barometric pressure via their air bladders, also known as swim bladders. These organs are inflated air sacs that help fish maintain their buoyancy. 

When the barometric pressure goes down, the air bladder will inflate to accommodate for the lessened pressure. When it rises, the bladder will shrink. These organs, responsible for helping to keep fish afloat, will experience pain and discomfort as the pressure changes. They may have a more difficult time staying balanced, too.

To a fish, an inflated swim bladder will feel like a bloated belly for a human. Not comfortable, right? That’s why they want to move around to get rid of the pressure in their bellies. This change is especially pronounced in small fish. Fish that are naturally tiny may feel the effects of pressure changes more easily than those that are larger. 

As a result, the fish will head out into deeper waters to weather out a storm. This exodus will help them relieve their discomfort and become more balanced, too. By swimming deeper into the water, the fish will enjoy higher pressure from the weight of the water alone. This reduces the size of the swim bladder. It’s not unlike the pressure changes that occur in an airplane when you fly. While we need advanced technology to stay breathing and comfortable, fish are unique because, they have everything they need to make the change themselves. 

It’s important to note that the pressure change from a normal or even a high-pressure day won’t have much of an impact on the fish. They will feel more comfortable feeding at all levels of the water column and will likely be more active, too. 

Feeding Times

Fish are often more active, in regards to feeding, when the atmospheric pressure is changing. They tend to feed more right before a storm as well as when it’s moving out. Keep an eye on the barometric pressure, because both of these times will be prime time for going fishing. 

Not All Fish Are The Same

What is important to note is that not all fish are the same – some fish are not always impacted by the change in barometric pressure like others are. However, despite not being affected in the same way, all fish are ultimately affected. Even if they don’t notice any changes, it’s likely that the prey they eat will sense the change in pressure.

Where prey goes, predatory fish will follow.

So it stands to reason that as prey feel a change in pressure and head to deeper water to weather the storm, the bigger fish are going to follow them, too.

High Pressure Vs. Low Pressure For Fishing

While you can fish during times of both high and low pressure, the very best time to go fishing is when the barometric pressure is in the process of changing. Again, fish are more likely to feed at these times. 

If the barometric pressure is dropping, use faster bait. The fish will be more likely to chase it down since they will be feeding more actively and voraciously. Once the pressure starts to rise after being in a period of low pressure, prepare yourself for a brief period of sluggish feeding behavior. The fish might take some time to turn back on. In fact, it can take a full 12 to 24 hours for them to start feeding again once the storm has moved through. 

Fishing In High Pressure 

When the weather is good, fishing in high pressure may seem like a cinch. However, there are changes you are going to want to make to improve your fishing success. 

For starters, you might want to consider your fishing technique. If you are in a kayak or a small boat, you’ll have an advantage as the water will be calm. That being said, don’t be afraid to fish deep waters. Fish might still be hanging out near structures or in the “deep end.” They also might not be quite as active as they would during a change in barometric pressure, even though the weather is good.

Fish will bite at a slow to medium rate and generally hang out near deep water or undercover. Keep in mind that other factors are impacted during periods of stable barometric pressure, too. For instance, lunar phases, water currents, tides, and wind direction can all help you predict where fish are found. Noting these factors can be helpful if you aren’t sure where else to look – or if you think that barometric pressure isn’t the cause of your fishing troubles. 

Fishing In Low Pressure

When the barometric pressure is low, fish will hang out in deep water. As I told you earlier, they will want to stay deep to help keep the pressure equalized and comfortable in their air bladders. Because the fish are hunkered down, waiting for the storm to pass, they aren’t going to be feeding as actively. 

Your success on the water will likely be impacted – if the fish aren’t biting, you’re not going to catch them. Fishing will likely slow considerably during times of low pressure. They will stop feeding or slow their feeding and hang out in deep water or undercover. However, that’s not to say that you’re totally without hope. You can always try using bait that moves more slowly – and try fishing where you know the fish are hiding – during these times, too. 

How To Keep Track Of Barometric Pressure Yourself 

Barometric pressure is measured in various units of measurement. It is typically referred to in mb, or millibars, by meteorologists. That being said, it can also be documented in hectopascals, which is a recognized measurement by the World Meteorological Organization. In the United States, barometric pressure is also recorded in inches of mercury, or inHg. If you’re trying to get a handle on what the barometric pressure is where you intend to fish, check your phone. Most weather apps will tell you the pressure both now as well as the predicted pressure in the future. 

Standard pressure (at sea level – you will have to make adjustments for altitude) is 29.92 inHg or 1013 hPa. Anything higher is considered high pressure, and anything lower is low pressure. Most weather services offer easy to read barometers or barometric graphs that show upcoming forecasts in addition to the last few days. It can be helpful to glance at the storm systems and barometric pressure trends that revolve around those trends. This will give you a good idea of how the fishing will be during those times. 

You can also purchase a barometer for your home. These can be either analog or digital and are relatively easy to read. You can find more information on how to do that by watching this video below.

Simple enough, right?

If you don’t have a way of keeping track of barometric pressure, just watch the weather. If it’s clear, sunny, and calm – in other words, a bluebird day – you’re dealing with a high-pressure system. 

So, What Is The Best Barometric Pressure For Fishing? 

The best barometric pressure for fishing will be somewhere between 29.70 and 30.40. This is best for “normal” fishing – if there’s any new lures or baits you want to try, or any fishing techniques you want to try your hand at, now will be the time. You won’t have to worry about the weather and the barometric pressure giving you false reading for results on what works and what doesn’t. 

If you’re not interested in trying anything new but simply want to take advantage of the weather conditions that Mother Nature is giving you, the best time for fishing will be when the weather is rapidly going downhill and deteriorating – in other words when the pressure is falling.

Not only will the fish be apt to feed on anything, but they’ll be on the move, too.

You’re likely to slam all kinds of fish, even those that are larger and predatory in nature and are less unaffected by changes to their swim bladders. However, if you know how to fish in all kinds of conditions, there’s nothing to say that you can’t make lemons out of lemonade and fish in times of both high and low (or even changing) barometric pressure, too.

It’s simply a matter of knowing what techniques work well in these conditions – and what works well for the fish, too! 

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