Understanding Barometric Pressure and How It Affects Fishing Success
If you’ve ever caught fish like a grandmaster one day and bombed the next – despite fishing the same area with the same presentation – you’ve probably scratched your head and wondered where the bad luck came from.
Truth be told, plenty of things can cause a sweet bite to turn sour, or, on the flip side, trigger a feeding frenzy of epic proportions. Factors such as fishing pressure, recreational boat traffic, and changes in water conditions can all affect the behavior and location of forage fish and larger predators.
By far, one of the least understood factors that influence fish and fishing is barometric pressure. Most anglers have heard the term a million times on the evening weather report and even listened as other anglers blamed or credited air pressure for affecting their success. But few truly understand how this critical piece of the fish-behavior puzzle can help them catch more fish.
In a nutshell, barometric pressure – also called atmospheric or air pressure – is the weight of the air pressing down upon everything on the planet, including fish and anglers. Lest you think such a load is light as a feather, consider that a square-inch column of air rising from sea level to the top of our atmosphere weighs about 14.7 pounds.
If you’re higher than sea level, say on a fishing trip to Denver, Colorado, then you’d only shoulder about 85 percent of the burden. Nevertheless, air has mass. We don’t feel it because we’re used to the pressure, but air pressure still affects food chains above and beneath the waves. And if you multiply all of those little inch-by-inch squares on the surface of your favorite fishing hole, you can begin to appreciate the pressure fish are under. Of course, like us, fish are built to handle this pressure or they’d collapse like the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs.
Along with altitude, high- and low-pressure weather systems also affect the barometer. There are also less-pronounced, twice-daily fluctuations due to heating from the sun, which peak around 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., and bottom out at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Even slight changes in barometric pressure can cause big variations in fish behavior. One of the main reasons is that everything in the water sinks, suspends, or floats to the top. Changes in pressure act like minor changes in gravity, upsetting this delicate balancing act on a regular basis. Such rises and falls are compounded because objects weigh less underwater, which makes them more prone to ups and downs.
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