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How Storms Affect Fishing Conditions
When long, hot days on the coast give way to stormy weather, the fishermen come out to play. They know that the time to catch fish off their guard is when air pressure and temperature are on the move, because thanks to their swim bladder and lateral line, fish are extremely sensitive to atmospheric conditions that those of us on dry land may not even notice. Their feeding patterns change during the course of stormy weather, so time your trip right to stay on top – and, of course, to stay safe. Here’s how to use the weather forecast to hit the sweet spot around storm season.
How to Read Fishing Forecasts
You might be able to identify a good beach day by looking out the window, but you can’t necessarily tell if it is a good day for fishing. Optimal fishing weather is all about changes in conditions, particularly the shift from high to low pressure, or warm to cold temperatures. Fish can sense what’s coming hours or days ahead, so you’ll need a 2–3 day forecast to keep up.
Once you find a reliable source like the NWS forecasts, look for low-pressure systems — which typically bring in wet, windy conditions — moving in to displace high-pressure systems. The closer the isobars on a chart, the stronger the winds will be, moving counterclockwise around a low-pressure system and clockwise around a high-pressure system in the northern hemisphere. A fishing forecast app or online tool will aggregate conditions to indicate the most favorable days for your trip out to sea or a day on the lake.
How Pressure, Temperature, and Wind Affect Fishing
Stormy weather can make the day exhilarating or miserable for fishermen, but for the fish, it triggers anything from a feeding frenzy to a state of torpor.
As a general rule of thumb, fish gorge themselves when the pressure drops to prepare for worsening conditions once a storm hits, which is why low barometric pressure readings often yield highly successful fishing trips. As the pressure rises again, they have a tendency to shut down, and are less likely to go for the bait.
Drops in temperature also inhibit feeding because colder water slows a fish’s metabolism, with some exceptions — such as ice-fishing. Fish will also feed more in the fall when they fatten up for colder water temperatures in winter.
In the U.S., the prevailing upper-level wind direction is generally from west to east, drawing up warm weather from the southwest during summer. This often means storms, low pressure, and overcast skies. The saying holds true: Wind from the west, fish bite best.
Overall, fish feel comfortable with the regular feeding pattern – such as the morning and evening feed most fishermen are familiar with. When a storm disturbs this pattern, fish are more likely to snatch at a lure, providing you pick the right moment.
How to Monitor the Weather: Essential Fishing Gadgets
Reading weather and storm conditions takes experience, but there’s no time to lose when it comes to fishing safely in stormy weather. Keep AcuRite’s Hunting and Fishing Activity Meter with Weather Forecaster at your lake house, cabin, or marina to check conditions before you go out. Then, include AcuRite’s portable Lightning Detector and Anemometer in your fishing kit to keep safe even when you’re distracted by the action.
Fishing Before a Storm: The Frenzy
Seasoned fishermen know that the best time to grab their gear and head out to the water is when a storm is a day or two away. With the barometric drop in pressure, fish come towards the surface or into shallow water to gorge themselves. If bands of rain are pushed in on a warm wind, fish will continue feeding, whereas cold northerly winds tend to lessen their activity. In short, impending storms are ripe for feeding, and one of the reasons why late summer and fall in the Gulf offer some spectacular fishing.
Once the storm hits, however, there’s little reason to keep fishing. Not only do lightning and heavy rains on the water’s surface put fish off from feeding, but wielding a carbon fishing rod during a thunderstorm is extremely unsafe. Conditions will be miserable if not dangerous, without any reciprocal trade-off in fish caught.
Fishing After a Storm: The Strike
It can take up to 72 hours after a storm for fish to return from deeper waters, rekindle their metabolism and begin feeding again, but they will do so with a vengeance. This is the perfect time to fish for larger predators in search of baitfish. The only exception is when a cold front rushes in to replace a low-pressure system. The drop in temperature and rise in barometric pressure will keep fish sluggish and reluctant to bite.
Of course, if fishing were as straightforward as following specific rules, the challenge would be less alluring. The above gadgets are typically reliable but by no means definitive. Weather also presents its own quirks and exceptions, making it even more important to prepare fully and have a back-up plan.