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Fishing Fronts: How Storms Effect Fishing

For the fall's best angling, fish impending storm systems.



The best time to be on the water is during a drop in barometric pressure. The intensity of the bite often increases in direct relation to the drop.

As the long, hot days of summer give way to the increasingly cool nights of autumn, weather patterns begin to change more frequently and with greater intensity. An angler can often start a day on the water under blue skies, only to find himself facing down a wall 
of ominous thunderheads in the afternoon.

While that impending storm front might cause an angler without raingear some discomfort, it can also trigger a hot bite. What many anglers know intuitively, but don't actually understand, is that it's the changes in barometric pressure associated with good and bad weather that turn the fish on and off like a giant kill switch in the sky.

Because fall is a transitional season, winds, weather and their associated pressure changes can be more extreme–and so can the fishing. Each region of the country exhibits weather patterns that consistently influence air movement. By understanding local weather patterns, you can plan successful fishing trips more often.

Learn Weather Trends

In general, air masses move from west to east across North America. This "global weather pattern" is created by a combination of the earth's rotation and the jet stream, which guides air masses north or south into various regions of the country as they move across the continent.

Because the jet stream tends to be farther to the north during the summer, warm, low-pressure systems are literally pulled out of the southwest and move toward the northeast. The result is the typical summer wind flow out of the southwest.

During the fall and winter, the jet stream tends to migrate in a southerly direction, pulling cold, dense, physically heavier, high-pressure arctic air masses from the north. 

Wherever warm and cold air masses meet, storms begin to brew. In the process, there are often rapid changes in temperature, wind direction and barometric pressure that affect fishing.

Fishing the Storm

To successfully fish a storm front, you have to understand what is taking place in the atmosphere.

The Good Times: As a storm system approaches, a low-pressure warm front rides up over the top of a high-pressure cold front, causing condensation to take place in the form of clouds. During the time the skies are clouding up, and right on through to the end of the storm, there is a slow and steady drop in barometric pressure that increases as the main body of the system approaches.

Once the main body of the storm hits and moves through the area, rain, winds and sometimes thunder and lightning form along the frontal line. The pressure continues to drop until it bottoms out as the storm runs its course. The fishing should be good this entire time, although lightning and heavy rains on the water's surface might spook fish. 

The Bad Times: As the inclement weather moves out, the cold front–a mass of heavier, denser, high-pressure air–begins to rush in behind the low-pressure system. The result is usually windy weather with clearing skies, dropping temperatures and a very sharp rise in barometric pressure.

Large storms will bring in stronger, more powerful and sustained winds, along with a much steeper, higher rise in barometric pressure than smaller storm systems will. It's this clear, windy weather following rainy low-pressure systems that anglers–especially those participating in big-money bass tournaments–dread, because it usually brings the fishing action to a standstill.

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