There’s nothing worse than heading out on a boat with your gear and tons of excitement, only to have no fish in sight for hours on end. Is it your hook? Is it your bait? Is it your coffee breath?
We’ve all been there. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent this from happening. Most importantly, you need to check the weather. Checking the fishing forecast and determining the best local times to go fishing may not be enough.
You’re going to need some quality weather tools to get you through your trip. I’m not just talking about a fishing app, though those are actually pretty helpful. I’m talking about old school technology like barometers. No matter what your Gramps says, you can’t just feel it in your bones or lick your finger, stick it in the air and tell if it’s a good day.
Luckily for you, we’ve got some killer insights on weather device basics. We’ll let you know which ones are worth it, what they do and how to use them.
Tools for Adventurers
If you’re shopping for weather tools to help with your fishing, you’ll need to know which devices are necessary and which are optional. You also need to think about which tools will lower the amount of time it takes to catch a fish. Check out these measurement devices below.
A fishing barometer is one of the best tools you can stash in your bag before you go on your trip. But what is a barometer, anyway?
Basically, a barometer measures air pressure. A higher reading indicates a higher air pressure, while a lower reading indicates a lower pressure.
If you stand on Mount Kilimanjaro with a barometer, for instance, the reading is going to be low, because there is less air above you. If you stand somewhere at sea level, the reading will be higher.
Why do you need to know the barometric pressure to determine good fishing weather? For one thing, it can help you predict when a storm is coming.
As the storm moves in, the barometric pressure will drop below a standard pressure level of about 29 to 30 inHg, or inches of mercury. In contrast, a high to normal barometric pressure may indicate warm weather and calm waters.
More importantly, a high-pressure reading usually means it’s a good day to fish. If the air pressure is too low, fish may swim to deeper waters. If the air pressure is normal to high, fish may be more active near the surface of the water and more likely to look for food.
Wondering why this is? All fish have swim bladders, which are air sacs that sense changes in atmospheric pressure. If the air pressure drops, swim bladders inflate, which feels uncomfortable for fish. The fish will then swim to deeper water, where the increased pressure may cause their swim bladders to deflate. Science, right?
If you’re using a barometer, the best times to fish are when the air pressure is medium, stable or just about to fall. Falling pressure actually indicates an excellent time to fish, because the fish will try to catch as much food as possible before taking cover in deep waters. Once the pressure really drops, however, you have a much lower chance of hooking anything.
Portable Weather Station
If you’re looking for an all-in-one tool, a portable weather station might be your go-to. This is a handheld device that is usually waterproof and weather resistant. The best portable stations have the ability to read:
- Barometric pressure
- Wind speed
- Wind chill
- Dew point
- Heat index
In addition, the device may float in water and have a compass. Note that the more features a portable station has, the higher the cost. However, you may purchase a warranty to protect it.
So, you get out on the open water, you’re ready to go, you check a fishing weather app on your phone and whoops! Your phone slips into the water. Now what?
Even if you are extremely careful with your phone, it’s always a good idea to bring a weather radio. You might not have service out on the water, and a weather radio will keep you informed on emergency conditions.
The best weather radios will have Specific Area Message Coding (SAME) which gives you weather warnings for your area only. In addition, the radio will sound a siren if an emergency occurs, so even your uncle who’s hard of hearing can stay in the know.
If you’re into fly fishing, it might be time to invest in an instrument that helps improve your chances of catching a fish. A stream thermometer will give you a reading of the water temperature. This will help you predict which fish species are present and whether you’ll make a catch.
To use the thermometer, insert it into the water for 10 to 15 seconds. Then, lift it out and check the mercury level. You may need to test the thermometer in multiple spots to see how the temperature varies.
There are two main types of stream thermometers: analog and digital. An analog thermometer is a classic, with a glass tube and red line of mercury. A digital thermometer displays the temperature of the water on a digital screen.
While digital thermometers are pretty fancy and fun to play with, they’re not always the most practical. Also, analogs are typically much cheaper.
If you’re fishing in cold water, a stream thermometer might save you a great deal of aggravation. You may think that the water temperature won’t change much in one area.
However, a small creek may have a very different temperature from the main river it joins. Water temperature will dramatically affect where the fish decide to hang out.
Before you head out, make sure you check the fishing tide charts and the solar and lunar charts in your area. You really don’t want to be caught at high tide or low tide, because the fish are much less likely to stick around. The water isn’t moving much during these times, which means fish are also not moving around.
The best time to fish is when the tide is changing. In particular, you’ll have the most success in a falling tide, or high tide to low tide.
As a result, you’ll need to consider the points of high tide and low tide when reading a tide chart. You’ll be able to see when falling tides occur, and therefore which times are best for fishing in your area. You may also check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide prediction list for the most recent tide predictions.
Dealing with Tough Weather
You may think that fishing in foul weather conditions means you’ll never catch anything for you or your kid.
Actually, it doesn’t have to. Maybe you’re looking for an extra challenge. Or maybe you forgot to check the weather, or an unexpected storm dropped in. In any event, it’s good to know about fishing tactics for poor weather.
There are three major tips you should follow. Tip number one: don’t fish in the middle of nowhere. Place yourself near an oyster bar or a dock. Next, begin looking for deeper areas of the water. You’re more likely to find fish in deeper waters during stormy weather (remember those swim bladders?)
If you’re using a jig, try not to bounce it with gusto. Instead, gently bounce it off the bottom. Fish move more slowly in bad weather and cold temperatures, which means you’ll have to match their pace.
Finally, a little rain might actually be a good thing. Right after a good rain, fish can go into a feeding frenzy. This is because run-off from a storm creates a flow of water that can stir fish.
In addition, these little streams often pull bugs and worms into the water, enticing fish. It’s always good to take advantage of natural feeding times, because you might catch some species you wouldn’t have seen during a different time of day.
While these tips might vary for different areas, they’re pretty common practice and extremely useful.
Which species are more likely to be caught during different weather conditions?
It’s important to remember that fish are cold-blooded. As a result, every fish has a different tolerance level before it moves on to find warmer waters.
This fact applies to fish regardless of whether they thrive in freshwater or saltwater, or live in tropical regions or cooler areas. Below are some of the optimal water temperatures for a few different species:
- Muskellunge: 55 to 73 degrees
- Northern Pike: 55 to 75 degrees
- Walleye: 53 to 72 degrees
- Crappie: 65 to 75 degrees
- Bluegill: 65 to 75 degrees
- Largemouth Bass: 60 to 77 degrees
- Smallmouth Bass: 58 to 71 degrees
- Rainbow Trout: 50 to 65 degrees
- Lake Trout: 42 to 55 degrees
- Brown Trout: 52 to 73 degrees
- Coho Salmon: 44 to 60 degrees
- Chinook or King Salmon: 44 to 60 degrees
Thus, the temperature of the water will determine what type of fish you’re catching. For instance, when fishing in the cold, you probably won’t see any crappie, bluegill or bass, but you may see some trout or salmon. If you’re fishing in a river right after a storm, you might be more likely to catch trout, smallmouth or walleye.
In the event that you’re fishing in a lake after a storm, you may also have good chances of making a catch. Certain lake species are more active after a storm than they are during a bright and sunny day. This is caused by low levels of oxygen in the water during warm weather.