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101: Weather Patterns

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Weather Patterns

How much of an impact does weather play in fishing patterns?  Why do cold fronts have a negative impact on fishing?  What about excessive heat or cold?

Weather in itself is such a general term considering all the different types of weather patterns.  This is a very hard question to answer without specifics as to times of year versus prevailing and changing weather patterns (i.e. rain, rain temps, snow, hail, wind direction & speed, cloud cover, etc.).  It is sufficient to say that weather does affect fishing in many ways including affecting the angler as much as the fish.
Let's address cold fronts as this is the most prevailing of all weather patterns that affects fishing.

There are as many theories as there are fish about why and how cold fronts affect fishing patterns.  Even the "experts" such as fisheries biologists have differing theories.

Some prescribe to the theory that changing barometric pressures affect swim bladders of the fish.  Low pressure areas (pre-frontal) and high pressure areas (post-frontal) affect the swim bladder which in turn affects fish feeding behavior.  Other biologists disagree with this theory.  Anglers have their theories as well but there is one thing everyone agrees upon: fish tend to feed more actively just prior to a cold front and during frontal passage and are more reluctant to feed after the frontal passage.  This is a proven fact.
Here is my theory.  I always try to take a common sense approach to fishing when trying to determine where fish are located, why they are there and why they are active or inactive.  I firmly believe that for the most part all fish spend their time concentrating on two things.
They spend a few days each year concentrating on spawning.  And then they spend their whole lives looking for food and water conditions to sustain themselves.  It is called survival.  All animals are like this -- including us humans.  We are just a little farther up the sophisticated scale of behavior patterns.

An approaching cold front provides a number of conditions that are a plus for predator fish.  Wind causes current and waves. These oxygenate the water and also play a part in making food sources available to the fish.  The current will wash food by fish that feed on bottom such as catfish.  This makes the food supply more readily available.

Oxygenated water makes the fish more active thus raised activity levels must be sustained by more intake of food.  How hungry do you get after a period of more physical activity than normal?

Cloud cover associated with an approaching cold front provides low level light conditions for the predator fish like Bass and Crappie.  It is harder for the prey fish to see the predator, thus making it easier for the predator to get closer to the prey.  The obvious result here is that more prey get eaten.

With post frontal conditions, or after a cold front has passed, the fish are tougher to catch for a number of reasons.  The most prevailing common sense one I can think of is that they are not hungry.  They have just had a smorgasbord of food when the cold front was approaching and passing through.  How long does it take you to get hungry after you have just ate yourself silly?

Think about it.

Anyway, that is my theory but again one thing is for certain that all anglers agree upon and that is that fish feed very actively just before a cold front passes and during the passage but are more prone to inactivity after the front has passed.

Continue to Night vs. Day & Astronomy >

Fishing 101 Credits:

Written by Dave Stewart, Bass Buster Guide Service
Edited by Shawn Dunnaway
Fishing 101 may not be reproduced or reprinted and is provided exclusively by ExploreKentuckyLake.com

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Photo by Libby Mundy

This male eastern bluebird is looking for an insect to munch on. Easily spotted by binoculars, the males are bluer than the females which are mostly grey in color.