Why keep an eye on the barometer? It will clue you in to the best fish locations, as well as the best tactics to trigger more strikes.
I recently wrapped up a long weekend of giving and listening to walleye fishing seminars. In just about every discussion, barometric pressure and its effects on fishing was brought up. Why is this such a widely discussed topic? Likely, it’s because few anglers fully understand this aspect of the weather and its potent affect on fish, and that you can track it right from your handy smartphone, using your ScoutLook Fishing app.
From my personal experience I can attest to a clear understanding of barometric pressure being a major factor in my fishing success. So what is barometric pressure? It’s the measure of the weight of the atmosphere above us. Clear as mud, right? Here is a helpful, easy-to-understand analogy I learned years ago: High pressure is like a “hand from heaven” pushing down on the water, driving everything tight to the bottom of the lake, while Low pressure is the “lifting” of that hand, making it easier for aquatic life to move freely in the water.
Look for barometric pressure readings on your ScoutLook Fishing app, just to the right of the temperature forecast, on the “weather” screen. The screen shown above shows a classic example of a slowly, steadily rising barometer throughout the day.
Since I work as a fishing guide, I don’t get to choose the days I go fishing, based on “nice” weather and/or “comfortable” conditions. As you might guess, I must remain versatile and prepared for any type of weather the day may bring. And as much as I enjoy fishing under “bluebird” skies, with calm winds, these are usually not the most-ideal conditions for active fish.
DRAWING A LINE BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW PRESSURE
Have you ever noticed how active the fish are just before a storm hits? Well, that is because a low-pressure system is moving in. And when we are experiencing those sunny calm days, it’s usually high pressure that is present. What is considered “high” and “low” pressure? There are several different sources out there stating a few different numbers, but I like to use 30.0 (typical weather-reporting measurement) as the “normal” pressure level. So anything above 30 would be considered “high” and anything below that number would be considered “low.” I use my ScoutLook Fishing App regularly, to watch for the rise or fall of the barometer, as this helps me determine what technique I will present to the fish in the current conditions.
The author considers barometric pressure readings critical for pinpointing fish location; experience has shown that in times of high pressure, walleyes will experience a slow-down in activity level, and will most likely be found in deep water, and/or very tight to structure.
Here is my fishing game plan based on the barometer: On “high pressure” days fish tend to slow down and hold in deep water, and near structure. So when I’m fishing high-pressure walleyes, my typical approach will be to fish slower and tighter to the bottom. This is a great time for a traditional Lindy rig presentation, or vertically jigging live bait, or any of Northland Tackle’s “impulse baits” such as the Jig’n leach or a 3-inch smelt minnow. When the pressure is rising, the fish tend to be a bit more active, but not much better than in “stable” high-pressure conditions. During a rising barometer I would continue the same “high-pressure” tactics, with maybe a bit more speed added to the presentation.
Falling pressure is my favorite time to fish, which dependably occurs before a storm comes in. This is when fish tend to be the most active, and can be caught consistently in shallow water, or even on the surface. As far as walleyes go, I may switch over to pitching jigs up shallow, or casting crankbaits and working them back aggressively. This can be a short window of opportunity at times, but don’t overlook it, as it can be the very best time to be on the water. Remember to proceed with caution, and make sure you are near land if lightning is in the area. As always, your safety comes first!
Another benefit of knowing the current barometric pressure is good insight into the correct, and deadliest, presentations. The author has found that in times of falling pressure, walleyes tend to be much shallower and more active; killer techniques for these fish include pitching jigs into shallow-water areas, and casting crankbaits that should be worked very aggressively.
STABLE WEATHER MEANS CONSISTENT ACTION
Stable weather is also ideal, and I like to see two to three days of the same type of weather pattern, as this usually “calms” the fish, and normal fishing activity resumes. I then focus more on key feeding times for the specific body of water, and time of the year. When you are experiencing stable weather conditions, it’s a great time to experiment with different setups and lures, to see what will trigger the fish into biting the best on that given day. Don’t forget that after any prolonged feeding period, the fish will become less active.
After an extended period (seven to 10 days) of stable weather, or an extended period of low pressure, look for movements of rising pressure to trigger some activity. Weather plays a very key role in my presentations, and I’m constantly watching the weather weeks out to see how it changes, to determine how and where I’ll be fishing. Many times I’ll start the day out with one technique (such as bottom bouncers and spinners) and by early afternoon I’m pulling cranks for suspended fish, due to the change in weather conditions and barometric pressure.
Walleyes are predators, and will travel anywhere necessary to find baitfish. And the baitfish are found where the plankton is. Plankton can be located just about anywhere in the aquatic system, but weather factors such as wind, sunlight, and barometer are keys to where most baitfish will be found. It’s thought that the plankton rise from the bottom of the system during times of low pressure, in turn making the fish more active as the bait moves around more freely to feed.
A rapidly falling barometer signals a coming storm, as well as a predictably hot bite. Those who stay on the water when skies are threatening may experience some of the best angling of the year, but remember to put safety first. Be sure you are near a safe landing if lightning threatens or a storm escalates suddenly.
Wind can also drive plankton and baitfish in to shorelines, mudlines etc…. at times creating a “feeding frenzy.” And as the sun climbs higher overhead in the early spring, it warms up the water, activating many of the species to move around actively as well. Are these all scientific facts? Not so much, but do these rules of thumb hold true? In my experiences, which include putting in over 150 days a year on the water, they certainly do.
Barometric pressure is no joke, and should certainly earn some consideration when checking your ScoutLook Fishing app and planning your next fishing trip. Overall, how you respond to the current weather will likely be a key component in whether you have a good trip or a great trip, and the more you know, the smarter and more-efficient your angling will become. It’s also important to remember one more thing: Any time you can go fishing is the right time, regardless of the outcome.