Does Air Pressure Affect Your Fishing?

Craig Crumbliss

The birds are eating, are the fish?

This is a question I posed recently on a Florida fishing forum, along with a link to an article by Dr. David Ross that seemed to answer the question with a simple no. The responses I received varied, mostly something along the lines of bluebirds and cows standing up or sitting. Everyone wants to catch more fish. That’s why you’re reading this. We’d like to think understanding the pressure is like the tides and moon stages, it will help you catch more fish but Dr. Ross’ article questions this common belief. I’d like to first tell you a little about Dr. Ross’ article which will disprove that pressure affects fish and then tell you one possible way that I believe, it does.

Dr. Ross begins his article explaining how much denser water is than air, and because of this density 32.8 feet is equal to one atmosphere. So if a tide occurs that is 3.28 feet it has had the effect on the fish of 1/10 th an atmosphere. These kinds of tides are normal in Florida. Secondly, if the movement of water in the tide produces a change there is also a change in the water when a fish moves up and down in the water column which is a change that can be accomplished in seconds and often times it can be even more than 3.28 feet which is the change on .1 atmospheres.

Finally, the effect of air pressure is minimal because depending on the intensity of the storm or front it only has the effect of .002 to .02 atmospheres per hour. This is a minimal amount that allows the fish a lot of time for adjustment.

Storm fronts like this may cause a brief feeding frenzy, followed by a shutdown on bites until the front passes.

Although Dr. Ross makes a strong case that the change in barometric pressure is a minimal effect to fish I believe that it is in fact a very great effect on fish. The fish deal with a natural rhythm of the tides and waves. Similarly, they gradually cope with changes in the moon and night-light, temperature change, and changes in salinity due to rain or release of fresh water into the salt from rivers and canals. I believe that this is a natural rhythm that the fish are used to. When a change to that rhythm occurs, such as a front or hurricane, it affects the fish because it is an unnatural interruption to their natural rhythm. This is what causes fish to eat before a storm; they sense the change and decide that they don’t know what conditions it will bring so they eat before. Likewise, after a storm or front when it has cleared out he fish do not eat as well or not even at all because they have already eaten. So in reality the changes in air pressure due to fronts or storms really does affect our fishing.

Although few of us have the ability to be real selective about our fishing days and times there are things that we can change in our bait and lure selection and our presentation techniques. Before a front and often during it the fish will eat aggressively and will respond well to a wide variety of baits and lures. It’s the time after the front has passed through that fish will be pushed to a mood of not eating or become very selective in what they take. For this time I would suggest live bait as this is the most natural thing in most cases. For those purist that use only artificials a slow working but very realistic bait is important. Because I don’t like to throw slow working baits until I know where the fish are, even with the right techniques it is hard to do as well as you would on a “good day”. But if you find the fish and then use the right techniques it is possible to still have a productive day even right after a front has passed cause very few of us can choose our days to fish. Good luck, and keep the lines tight.

Editor's Note: The article by Dr. David Ross referenced above can be found here.

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