What Is the Best Barometric Pressure for Fishing?

Fisherman with his catch

Before you go fishing, you probably check the weather forecast to assess conditions such as temperature, wind, and rainfall. But don’t forget to monitor the barometric pressure. If you overlook the barometric pressure forecast, you may miss vital information that can help you predict how active the fish will be.

Paying attention to barometric pressure can be the difference between collecting a cooler full of fish or coming home empty-handed. Here is what you should know about barometric pressure and how it can affect your fishing success.

What Is Barometric Pressure?

Barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, is the pressure within the Earth’s atmosphere that surrounds us, generated by the downward force of gravity. Barometric pressure is different at various points on Earth. It changes over time according to the density of the air, temperature, and altitude.

The changes in air pressure can help meteorologists predict the weather. For instance, a rise in atmospheric pressure usually indicates a high-pressure system with clear and sunny weather is coming. In contrast, a drop in atmospheric pressure can indicate that a low-pressure system with cloudy and rainy weather is on its way.

Knowing the barometric pressure at your fishing location will give you an idea of the impending weather, and it will also help you find out if the fish will be actively feeding.

How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Fishing Conditions?

What does barometric pressure have to do with fishing activity? Have you ever experienced a headache or sore joint due to a change in weather? Most often, you can chalk it up to your body reacting to barometric pressure fluctuations. 

You are not alone—many animals, including dogs, birds, bees, and, yes, fish, also respond to pressure changes in the atmosphere.

Fish have an organ called a swim bladder, also known as an air bladder, that acts as an internal regulator to help the fish keep an appropriate level of buoyancy. When pressure increases, the swim bladder compresses. When barometric pressure drops, the bladder expands to compensate for the lessened pressure.

Humans do not have swim bladders, but they do have sinuses in their heads or pockets of air around joints that can be affected by barometric pressure. A barometric pressure change can lead to painful joints or headaches that seem to predict the weather.

Fish can experience discomfort when their air bladders respond to pressure changes. Some scientists liken it to divers having the bends when they move too quickly toward the water’s surface. That fast pressure change can be life-threatening for divers, so it makes sense that it can also impact fish.

An inflated swim bladder can cause fish discomfort, and it may make it difficult for them to stay balanced as well. The smaller the fish, the more significant the barometric pressure effect can be. 

To alleviate any discomfort, fish will move around more and head to deeper waters to weather out a storm. By swimming into deeper water, the fish will experience a higher pressure from the weight of the water alone, resulting in their swim bladder shrinking.

Best Barometric Pressure for Fishing

Fish anatomy is a fascinating topic, but let’s get back to fishing itself. Since air pressure can change fish behavior, you can see why learning about barometric pressure changes can help you pinpoint better times for casting lines. 

The best barometric pressure conditions for fishing are when the pressure is falling, and the weather is degrading. During this period of falling barometric pressure, fish become very active. They will likely take any food you offer them.

The second best barometric conditions are when the air pressure is medium and stable. The weather will be fair, and the fishing conditions will be normal. Now is the time where you’ll have to test different lures, baits, and fishing techniques to meet the needs of the fish.

In low-pressure conditions, the fish “bite slow” and they will be in deeper water, so you will have to cast your line deeper than usual. With higher pressure conditions, fish are also less active. They will be in deeper water or near cover, so you’ll also need to use slower fishing techniques to attract a bite.

The summary below will help make it easy for you to visualize the best barometric pressure for fishing to increase your opportunity for a good catch:

High Pressure (30.5 inHg and over/Clear Skies): Fish bite medium to slow. Fish slowly in deeper water or near cover.

Medium Pressure (29.70 inHg - 30.40 inHg/Fair Weather): Normal fishing conditions. Test different lures, baits, and fishing techniques to meet the needs of the fish.

Low Pressure (29.6 inHg and under/Cloudy/Rainy Weather): Fish will be less active. Fish slowly in deeper water or near cover.

Rising Pressure/Improving Weather: Fish are slightly active. Fish slowly in deeper water or near cover.

Stable Pressure/Fair Weather: Normal fishing conditions. Test different lures, baits, and fishing techniques to meet the needs of the fish.

Falling Pressure/Degrading Weather: Best fishing conditions. The fish are very active—they will feed on anything they can get.

Man fishing in the rain

Keep in mind that decreasing barometric pressure can indicate a storm approaching. While fishing may be optimal, you should also track any weather changes to stay ahead of dangerous weather conditions for your safety.

How to Monitor Barometric Pressure

You have several choices to monitor barometric pressure before or during your fishing excursion. The easiest option is to check the weather forecast on your favorite weather app. You can take it a step further by using a dedicated fishing app such as Fish Angler. The app provides detailed weather forecasts, maps to find new fishing locations, a log for your catches, and a social community.

However, it would be best to use a handheld barometer or weather meter for the most accurate real-time readings of barometric pressure. Using an app can provide discrepancies in the measurements because the reports may be from a weather station that is miles away from your actual location.

A weather meter will provide a real-time hyperlocal readout of the actual conditions in your area.

We recommend the Kestrel 3500 Weather Meter. It’s a rugged, waterproof, and portable handheld weather station. Kestrel’s weather meter can track more than just barometric pressure changes. It can also tell you the dew point, wind chill, air temperature, humidity, and wind speeds.

Final Thoughts

By paying close attention to the barometric pressure, you can fine-tune your fishing opportunities. A fishing app on your phone, a barometer, or a handheld weather meter will give you instant updates to help you stay ahead of any hazardous weather conditions and find fishing success.

Published: November 1, 2021

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