There are very few things that we can control when we are lucky enough to get out on the ice. Weather being the least of them. And most of us don’t have the luxury of deciding what days we can fish. The obligations that come with life usually give us small windows to get out there and enjoy ourselves.
That being said, the fishing weather forecast can play a huge part in deciding what strategy to use when we are out fishing. Knowing how to adjust and react to different weather conditions will help us increase our chances of finding fish and putting them on the ice.
Just like most animals, fish are very sensitive to changes in the weather. They can sense when weather patterns are changing and act differently depending on the type of weather. Understanding the current and upcoming weather patterns can help us determine locations to fish, presentations to use, and even what baits to fish with.
Barometric pressure has major affects on the fishing
Barometric pressure is actually a measurement of air pressure in the atmosphere. Basically, this measures the weight exerted by air molecules on our planet. Why does this affect the fishing? There are a couple theories.
Many people believe that it has to do with the swim bladder. Most fish have a swim bladder that functions like a human lung. Fish can increase or decrease the amount of oxygen that they hold in this bladder to help keep them suspended at a certain depth without have to use energy to swim. An increase in pressure on this bladder can make the fish uncomfortable, which also makes them less likely to feed. Decreasing pressure would have the opposite affect (by most accounts decreasing barometric pressure leads to high fish activity).
The other theory has more to do with how the barometric pressure affects the water column. With lower pressure, air bubbles are released into the water column. This can bring small organisms and plankton ot the surface, bringing up the fish to follow. Lower pressure can keep these things lower in the water column, thus keeping the fish deeper.
Use the barometric pressure to create a fishing strategy
Most research seems to show that fishing is most affected when the pressure is either on the rise or falling, instead of stable at a high or low. Generally, higher pressure moving in indicates a warm front and stable weather conditions coming in after a cold front. It is generally believed that fish will be more active around cover and deeper points.
If you are out ice fishing during this phase, its a good idea to target areas that have cover such as weeds, trees, docks, or rocks. Also look for shallows that have access to deeper water like dropoffs or shelves. This can be one of the toughest times to catch fish. Try different lures and presentations. If you get a strike in an area, try a few different lures and presentations to trigger more bites. Don’t be afraid to drill a lot of holes to cover a lot of water.
Once the pressure tops out, fish will be suspended deep on cover and become more lethargic. Target deep water humps and depressions as well as any other deep water cover. Since the fish will be more lethargic keep your lure movements small and slow or erratic to trigger reaction strikes. Bumping the bottom or cover can also help. When you find the fish, it will probably take some effort to trigger a strike. Don’t be afraid to try several different lures and presentations.
With falling pressure comes cooler weather and precipitation and fish will again be actively feeding in the shallows prior to the cold front moving in. This is generally believed to be the best time to fish. We can get back to aggressive presentations and fishing in the shallow feeding areas. Since the fish should be more active, don’t be afraid to try a lot of different spots unitl you find them.
Light conditions can turn fish off and on like a switch
Bright or low light conditions are another thing that can have a major affect of the bite. Generally speaking, lower light conditions are better for fishing. This means early mornings or late evening can produce good results, just like during open water fishing. Snow covered ice can also help reduce the amount of light hitting the water, which can help the bite.
Overcast weather or even snow can produce fantastic fishing on the ice. When I look back at most of my great ice fishing pictures, most are taken during overcast or snowy conditions. These same condtions usually coincide with low or falling pressure on the barometer. This doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.
During the winter, sunny and clear weather is generally present once cold front that has moved through. This also means that the pressure is most likely on the rise. As we discussed above, this can make for some very tough fishing condtions. Look for fish on deeper structure and experiment with different lures and presentations.
Stable conditions can lead to predictable fishing
Winter weather is typically unstable and unpredictable, which can create similar fishing conditions. If you do happen to find a strecth of stable pressure and weather conditions, it can lead to a solid bite. This is a good time to fish patterns and areas that you have had success with in the past. Check your forceast ahead of time and adjust your strategy accordingly.
The other thing that can help is document the weather condtions and how your fishing was. What worked? What didn’t? I am going to personally start keeping a fishing log to get a better idea of what works for me during certain conditions on my local lakes.
Technology can help document everything
There are several tools you can use to check on weather condtions and fishing success proability. You can check weather conditions and barometric pressure on your phone. I personally use the Fish Points app, which predicts best fishing times based on lunar cycles and such, which can also have an affect on the fish.
The other great part about this app is that you can mark your fishing spots on a gps and put notes in about what you were using, time of day, etc. Use this to your advantage so that you don’t have to try and committ everything to memory.
Different patterns affect fish differently
There is still a lot of debate on the affects of different weather conditions and barometric pressure on fishing. A few general rules that we can follow out on the ice are:
- Falling barometric pressure will be the most active bite (generally before or during lowering temperatures or storms)
- Low light conditions will keep fish more active (mornings, evenings, overcast days)
- Rising and high barometric pressure can make for tough fishing
Keep in mind that a lot of this information is still unproven. You can research and find many different opinions on this. The three rules above seem to be the most agreed upon, and most relevant in my personal experience. The only way to really figure out what works for your local lakes and species is to get out there during some different conditions and fish.
If you have any other weather tips or tricks that work on your local ice, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!