Avid anglers are always looking for an edge. A common phrase in fishing is “I figured it was worth a try.” But knowing what kinds of things are worth a try before trying it for yourself can save you a lot of time, and one thing worth trying is a fishing barometer.
A fishing barometer measures the barometric pressure of the air, and this can be useful for making fishing plans. By understanding how barometric pressure affects fish, and by having accurate readings of the barometric pressure in your area, you may be able to boost your chances of fishing success.
The 5 best fishing barometers are:
- Trintec Nautical Marine Vector Collection
- Kestrel 2500 Weather Meter
- Ambient Weather WS-12 Wireless Weather Station
- Trintec Coastline Fishing Barometer
- Trac Outdoors Fishing Barometer
Barometric pressure affects a fish’s swim bladder, which prompts it to move to deeper or shallower water. It also can prompt it to feed when the pressure is high and suppress its feeding pressure is low. So, understanding how to read a barometric pressure gauge can help you gauge when to fish.
What Is A Fishing Barometer Used For?
Effective fishing is all about increasing your chances to entice a fish to bite your bait, lure or fly. A seasoned and successful angler will try anything short of breaking the law to give themselves an edge against a fish. That includes using a fishing barometer.
How A Fishing Barometer Works
For this section’s sake, the type of barometers being discussed are aneroid and digital. The reason is that mercury barometers are dangerous because of the mercury inside them, and water barometers are too large to haul around when you are fishing.
These were the most common barometers up until cell barometers were invented. An aneroid barometer contained a small metal box with all the air pumped out of it. Because of that, the metal is highly sensitive to pressure changes and expands and contracts.
The movement drives mechanical levers that move a needle up and down a gauge depending on the pressure. If your fishing barometer has a dial and gauge that resemble the pressure gauge on an air compressor, you have an aneroid barometer.
If you have a cell phone, it may contain a digital barometer sensor that tracks barometric pressure. Digital barometers are also standalone (like the fishing barometer) and can be part of some fishing sonar modules. Additionally, because most anglers do not need a barometric reading down to their exact location, many weather websites show the pressure too.
As mentioned, digital barometers use a sensor that measures changes in environmental pressure. That sensor is included in phones because it helps with elevation measurements that factor into your phone’s GPS service. In a fishing barometer, if the screen is digital, it has the same type of sensor.
Just about all barometers an angler would consult measure barometric pressure in inches (equivalent to inches of mercury, or inHg). Here are some general facts about barometric pressure readings.
- Normal sea-level barometric pressure is 29.92 inches
- Generally, barometers hover around 30 and rise or fall based on air pressure
- Sunny weather typically measures above 30 inches
- Stormy weather will measure at or below 29.2 inches
- The lowest ever recorded was 25.69 inches in the middle of a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean
- The highest recorded pressure was 32.01 inches, measured in Siberia in 1968
High And Low Pressure
The simplest way to explain the role of a barometer is that it measures the pressure in the air, which is determined by high and low pressure weather systems. Each type of system has its own effect on the weather, although like all weather, it is not uniformly consistent.
High barometric pressure is usually accompanied by fair weather. That type of system is usually what is associated with clearer skies and is often breezy. Low pressure usually comes with cloudier and often stormier weather.
Humans can discern pressure changes, although not usually if the change is slight. Lower pressure can cause achiness in joints or around bone breaks, migraine headaches, and higher blood pressure. Diabetics also will have more trouble controlling their blood sugar when low pressure accompanies cold weather. Any change in air pressure can affect blood sugar levels to a certain extent.
The same can be said for the animal world, including fish.
How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Fishing?
The first thing to realize when considering barometric pressure and fishing is that not everyone agrees there is much of an impact at all. Most anglers at least acknowledge that right before a storm front, and often right after one, fish seem to actively feed and are on the move.
Air Pressure On Fish
Fish have air bladders that are air pressure sensitive. As the air pressure above the water changes, so does the pressure in their air bladders. Scientists believe this can cause discomfort, causing the fish to either head for deeper water or rise closer to the surface, for lower pressure and higher pressure conditions respectively.
When A Storm Front Approaches
Storm and cold fronts are almost always accompanied by some degree of decreasing air pressure. Fish sense the pressure changes a long time before humans. Right before the pressure drops, fish may change their feeding patterns and feed heavily.
As fish feed and the pressure on their bladder increases because of the low pressure, a fish’s discomfort increases. At some point, the discomfort overrides any sense of hunger. The fish will retreat to deeper water and pressure stabilization.
When High Pressure Returns
Once the front passes and air pressure relents and fish adjust, they are hungry. They will feed very actively. This usually will happen 24 hours to 72 hours after a low pressure system departs.
Air Pressure Fishing Strategy
What this means is that right before a front, the fishing will get better. Once the front has arrived, it will drop off. It will stay that way until the next high pressure system takes hold. With that in mind, follow this guide:
- Fish shallow water right before low pressure hits
- Fish deeper water after the low pressure arrives
- When the low pressure departs, hold off on fishing or at least expect fewer active fish
- After 24 hours to about 72 hours, fish will start to feed in shallower water again
What Is The Best Barometric Pressure For Fishing?
There is no specific best barometric pressure for fishing, but instead the best barometric conditions for fishing are when the pressure is rapidly falling. That’s because fish are most likely to be actively feeding under these conditions.
Here are some general rules surrounding barometric pressure and fishing:
- A day to a few hours before low pressure hits, fish start feeding more
- Once the low pressure hits, fish go to deeper water and do not feed as much
- For 24-72 hours after low pressure rolls through, fish will not generally feed excessively
- After 24 hours, as barometric pressure rises, fish start to feed
How Do You Use A Barometer For Fishing?
When The Pressure Is Dropping
- Fish shallow to medium depth water
- Use “faster” lures such as stick baits, crankbaits, plastic worms, spinner baits, etc.
- Be prepared to transition to deeper water baits like large lip crankbaits
- Pay attention to the weather and move off it if you hear thunder, no matter how distant – it is not worth getting caught in a bad storm for the possibility that fish might be feeding
When The Pressure Is Below 30 Inches
- Fish deeper water
- Use slower baits such as jigs, spoons and traditional baits like worms, dough, etc.
- Remember the fish are adjusting, so will not feed unless something looks really easy to catch
When The Pressure Starts To Rise
- Continue with “slow fishing” until 24 hours after the front
- Use jigs, spoons and slower moving baits in deep to medium water
When The Pressure Exceeds 30 Inches
- Move to shallower water and shallow water baits
- After 24 hours, consider using topwater baits, buzz baits, etc.
- Jerk the lure rapidly and frequently to go after a reaction strike
A Few Other Points
- In the heat of summer, even during high pressure days, fish slow and in transition water
- In cold water, fish slow and at depth no matter what the pressure
- Remember that no fishing “rule” is ever hard and fast – try lots of strategies and tactics no matter what the air pressure is doing
- By the time the barometric pressure is falling and below 30, you are already well into the feeding period – If you catch it then use transition lures
Finally, the only way this approach works is if you are always in tune with the weather. Watch the forecast daily (or several times a day) and map out what weather will be happening before and during your fishing and track storm fronts. If a front is approaching, check your smartphone if you have service.
In addition to a barometer, using online weather maps can help you map out the movement of a low pressure system. With practice you can learn to do it almost as well as the fish can themselves. When you can do that, your chances of success improve greatly. If you can get on the water quickly, it pays to have a rod set up with you in your vehicle, home or office to capitalize on weather changes.
Barometric Pressure Fishing Tips
Fishing when a storm front is rapidly approaching can produce excellent results, even though you must be very careful regarding the weather conditions. You can be fishing with a storm a ridge over or several miles away one moment and be in the worst storm you ever encountered just minutes later. Consider your safety above all else.
Use The Right Lures
The fish will usually go through one very short period right before a front arrives where they will go after just about anything. Use shiny, quick moving lures or topwater lures to get a reaction strike.
If a fish goes after a topwater lure and misses or only goes after it half-heartedly, swap out your lure for an underwater lure and cast at about the same place. Chances are you will get a strike as the fish is feeding but looking for easier prey.
Know Where The Fish Will Be
Fish will congregate at the mouth of a stream or river as a front approaches. This is because many baitfish have the same reaction to pressure changes as larger fish. When the baitfish are uncomfortable, they will seek pressure stabilization until the discomfort subsides. Big fish will wait next to channels for them.
Consider Texas Rigs
In extreme low pressure systems, fishing the bottom very slowly with a plastic worm on a Texas rig is very effective. Move the rig as slowly as possible and twitch it every minute and a half or so.
Barometric Pressure Cheat Sheet For Fishing
|Species||Ideal Pressure||Best Weather||Best Pressure Trend||Worst Pressure Trend|
|Bass||29.7-31||Bright, calm||Rising||Rapidly decreasing|
|Walleye||29.5-31||Bright and clear||Stable decrease||Rapidly rising|
|Panfish||29.2-30.9||Cloudy but not stormy||Decreasing||Rapidly increasing|
|Catfish||29.5-30.1||N/A||Changing||Sustained high or low pressure|
|Trout||29-29.97||All conditions except clear skies||Rising||Sustained low pressure|
|Pickerel||29-30||Cloudy||N/A||Extreme high pressure|
How To Use This Chart
You should not use the above chart as the be-all and end-all fishing advice. Different weather conditions affect fish differently, which can skew their behavior regardless of whether the barometric pressure is rising or falling.
Additionally, if you are targeting one species and the weather falls into the “worst” category, do not cancel your fishing plans. It does not mean the fish will not bite or go after a lure. All it means is that you will probably have to work a little harder to get a fish interested enough to strike.
Use this chart to help plan your fishing trip tackle box. If you are going after bass, for example, you can assume you will also be in the vicinity of panfish, crappie and walleye, so pack bait or lures for those fish for if the bass are not biting. Also, if you are fishing a pressure drop, make sure you bring three types of lures: shallow, medium and deep water.
The 5 Best Fishing Barometers
1. Trintec Nautical Marine Vector Collection
This unit is corrosion resistant, and the acrylic lens does not scratch easily. It also comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty. The barometer has a mechanism to track pressure trends and works best at 2,000 feet of elevation and below. The lens diameter is 3.72” and it weighs approximately 10 ounces. It can be mounted, and the hardware is included.
2. Kestrel 2500 Weather Meter
This is a wind and weather meter that also records and tracks barometric pressure. It is waterproof, drop tested, and it floats. The display is backlit, and the housing mechanism has 3 buttons. It records altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, wind speed and wind chill. The digital pressure altimeter is ideal for predicting weather.
Its dimensions are 0.75 x 0.43 x 1.89 inches, which makes it ideal for a pants pocket and fishing either in a boat or on land.
3. Ambient Weather WS-12 Wireless Weather Station
The WS-12 is a portable weather station, which is why it is extremely popular. It has bright backlighting making it easy to read in just about any conditions. The backlight color changes with the temperature. It can measure the temperature on location and has multiple temperature probe options too.
The console can be customized further as well. Weather data it records are barometric pressure, humidity, precipitation, wind and temperature. It also has alarms for high and low barometric readings.
4. Trintec Coastline Fishing Barometer
The housing of the Trintec Coastline barometer is corrosion resistant, and the lens is scratch resistant. The diameter of the dial meter is about 3.75 inches, and it weighs 10 ounces. It comes with mounting hardware. Data presented include time, tide, tide indicator, barometric pressure with pin to track trends, and fishing information on the face pertaining to barometric pressure.
5. Trac Outdoors Fishing Barometer
The Trac Outdoors Fishing Barometer is affordable and highly portable. It can be attached to a lanyard, backpack, coat or other item of clothing. The unit is easy to calibrate and pressure trends can be tracked with the adjustable pressure change indicator.
A color-coded dial indicates predicted fishing outcomes. The housing is sure-grip ABS plastic, which means it can take a beating too.
A fishing barometer can be used to show you your local atmospheric pressure, which is useful for understanding fish feeding and movement patterns, and can be used to improve your catching chances. While it’s not always the most reliable measurement, it can prove useful in changing conditions.