Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Best weather conditions for planning spring fishing trips
FRANKFORT, Ky. – There is a saying in
fishing that goes “the best time to go fishing is when you can.”
With the frenetic
pace and busy schedules of modern life, the saying is true more than ever.
However, if you only have a few weekends each spring to fish, the experience
yields more stress reduction, enjoyment and memories if the fish bite like
Studying the long
range forecast before planning a fishing trip and looking for the right trends
helps bring you a glory day of fishing instead of a day of a thousand casts
without a bite.
play into what makes ideal environmental conditions for fishing: barometric
pressure, wind direction, sunlight and precipitation all play a major role.
“I think the
barometric pressure determines what the fishing success will be that day,” said
Chad Miles, administrative director of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife
Foundation and keen observer of weather trends for fishing. “The barometric
pressure is a good indicator of how aggressive they are feeding.”
pressure is a measurement of the weight of an entire column of air pressing
down on the Earth. Approaching storm fronts ease this weight, resulting in low
atmospheric pressure. The old fishing adage that fish bite best before a storm
pressure stems from a large mass of air that is slowly descending toward the
Earth’s surface, while low barometric pressure is the opposite scenario. The
rising air of a low pressure area cools and releases the humidity trapped in
the air, causing either rain or snow.
systems bring with them environmental conditions conducive for predator fish to
feed such as increased winds, dark, cloudy skies and precipitation. These factors
decrease light penetration into the water column, providing a better
environment for predator fish to ambush prey.
barometric pressure also exerts less force on the water’s surface which may
trigger a feeding frenzy, although some debate exists on this point. However,
there is nearly universal belief that approaching low pressure frontal systems
provoke fish into feeding.
happens when the inevitable high pressure system follows the low. “If you see
small sticks in the water floating straight up and down, then fishing will be
bad,” Miles said. “The sticks floating this way indicate really high air
pressure. I’ve been in the boat too many times on high pressure days and
wondered what happened to the fish.”
bluebird days following a low pressure system really hurt fishing in late
winter and early spring. Fish hold tight to cover, grow lethargic and often
hunker on the bottom awaiting better conditions, especially in clear water
lakes. Many believe the force of the higher air pressure on the water’s surface
is a catalyst for this behavior.
In the Northern
Hemisphere, air descending from high pressure flows out in a clockwise
direction, often bringing winds from the north and eventually the east. The old
saying “Wind from the east, fish bite least” has some basis in fact.
“In late winter
and early spring, the best time to fish is on the third or fourth day of stable
weather with a stable barometer,” Miles explained. “This is true regardless of
the temperature, even it is cold.”
The descending air
of a high pressure system does eventually bring good fishing in spring. Air
moving toward the Earth’s surface warms while doing so; this warming retards
the formation of clouds, bringing clear skies with lots of sunlight.
lakes with stained water, some of your best fishing days in spring are bright
days,” Miles said. “Stained water in the shallows warms quicker, attracting the
fish. But, on deep, clear water lakes, bright days in spring kill you as these
lakes warm much slower and the fish in them are more sensitive to light.”
Several apps for
smart phones predict the barometric pressure over a two or three day period.
Miles often consults these apps when planning fishing trips. The National
Weather Service offers excellent long range weather forecasts on its website at
The later sunsets
of mid-February indicate that winter’s cold grasp is lessening and spring is on
the way. If you have a choice of planning upcoming fishing trips, the day
before a low pressure system or three or four days afterward are best.