12/15/10
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Midges

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Barometric Pressure and Fishing
Continuing with Sir Hugo's questions,

Question #4 Based On your Bass Pro Experience is Barometric Pressure (rising,
falling, steady )

A good Indicator or even a hint of fishing conditions in any way

I will answer the last question first to set the stage for this article. Yes, the
barometric pressure can be an excellent indicator of fishing conditions in
many cases.
It's a good indicator, but it is also the most misunderstood and abused
fishing subject I know of. I will also quickly point out, it's effect on fish varies with the
species and by that i am referring to all fish species, salt and fresh water species.

You mentioned bass tournaments.
If you don't understand the effects that
changes in atmospheric pressure has on bass and you are fishing
professional tournaments, you chances of success would be much higher
if you ran for President of the United States.
It's the single largest
environmental factor in indicating when, where and to what extend bass feed there
is. If you want to get a quick, down and dirty picture of its effects, just look at the
statics of fish caught during any large professional tournament where good records
are maintained. When I fished the BASS circuit, back when Moby Dick was a
minnow, we had a field of 300 anglers in most all of the tournaments. The
tournaments were three day tournaments with three practice days and off-limits on
the lake or river up to that point. At first the limit was 10 fish of at least 12 inches but
it later changed to 7 fish of at least 14 inches. With the same limit rules, I remember
some tournaments that were held on the same lake during consecutive years where
the total catch of tournaments when the three tournament days fell on low pressure
systems were as high as three to four times what they were when it fell on three
days of high pressure.  Toledo Bend Texas is one I remember very well. One year in
February when the tournament fell on a high pressure system, we caught only
around 2000 pounds total. The next year, the tournament was held on about the
same date when there was low pressure and the catch was over 6000 pounds. The
difference in bass fishing lakes is as different as night and day.

Now, to make sure I'm being clear, let me say it doesn't affect most trout fishing in
the same manner. I'm not saying it doesn't affect the way trout feed because it does.
It depends on several things and particularly, the species of trout. In general, it
affects brown trout much more than the rainbows. There are exceptions to this, so
don't take it as an absolute rule. To be more specific, it depend largely on how the
fish feed. It has little effect on rainbow or brown trout eating emerging insects
drifting in a current seam. They will do this irregardless of the barometric pressure;
however, It has a huge effect on whether or not a larger brown trout will come out
from its hiding place and feed.. It also affects whether either species will feed
aggressively on nymphs on the bottom. The tendency is for them to feed more
aggressively and more frequently during low pressure systems.

The reason isn't what many try to make of it. One big reason it affects the feeding
habits of fish is quite simple.
It 's mostly to do with the amount of available
light,
not the change in pressure of the bladder of the fish or any other nutty
theory. Low pressure usually means cloud cover and cloud cover means low light
conditions. Most of the time when bass feed, they feed as a predator using the
element of surprise to their advantage. They are more like a lion or tiger than hides
and pounces on its prey than they are a cheetah that runs its prey down in open
spaces. Bass depend on the element of surprise to grab a crawfish or baitfish.
There's a few exceptions that depend on the type of water. In some very clear, deep
lakes where bass tend to school, especially smallmouth and spotted bass but
sometimes largemouth bass, the schools of bass will feed on shad and other baitfish
during high pressure systems when the sky is very clear. In lakes where bass don't
tend to school, and that's the vast majority of them, they feed very little when there's
high pressure and clear skies. The results of bass tournaments makes it very clear
when it is the easiest to catch bass. When you have high pressure, it makes bass
fishing (with very few exceptions) much tougher. You will see anglers that are not
real pros catch very, very few fish. When you have low pressure, fishing is much
easier and even the guys that aren't that knowledgeable will usually catch some
bass. Low light makes it much easier for the bass to catch its food.

Another factor that affects all fish but some species more than others
is the
change in water temperature that's associated with fronts.
When a cold front
passes, the air temperatures drop and that changes the water temperature. Since
fish are cold blooded, that changes their body temperature. It doesn't affect them in
the sense it affects us warm blooded creatures (they don't feel hot or cold) but it
affects them. It takes a certain period of time for the fish to adjust to the changes in
their environment and body temperature. Again, this greatly depends on the
species and the water. It has almost zero affect in the temperature at a hundred feet
depth of Gulf of Mexico water and the way a red snapper feeds but it greatly affects
the way a King Mackerel feeds in the Atlantic in twenty feet of water along the
coastline, just for example. It affects fish more so during the Spring when the water
is warming during a warm front and a cold front passes and the air temps fall and
cool the water to a temperature that makes the fish inactive. It usually takes a day or
two for the fish to adjust to this type of change. Contrary, during the late hot
summer when a cold front passes, the air temperature may fall quite a bit and lower
the water temperature to the point is helps increase the activity of the fish, and
consequently, the extent they feed. Either way, it usually takes a short time for the
fish to adjust to the changes.

I could go into the various saltwater species and explain the difference barometric
pressure makes but just let me say it affects some species drastically and others
very little, again depending on how the particular species feeds. It also depends on
water depth. I didn't mention it above, but depth is also a factor on some freshwater
species but again, it actually has to do with the different lighting conditions during
low and high pressure. Deep water has less light, shallow water more light.

Here's the big problem with the effect of barometric pressure. Most anglers don't
really understand what barometric pressure is and they confuse highs and lows
when they are discussing the passage of weather fronts, They will talk about the
effect a cold front is having on the fish when the barometer is still low and the cold
front hasn't yet passed, for example. Most of the time when you hear the average
guy talking about the effects of a front on his fishing, he is just searching for an
excuse. I used to hear bass anglers say something like "This dang front is headed
our way and it has given the fish lock jaw". In reality, he may be talking about a cold
front on its way that hasn't yet passed when in reality he is fishing under a warm
front when the fishing should be excellent. When the skies clear and the cold front
passes, you may hear something like, "fishing is going to be pick up soon since this
storm has passed". At the time, it should be slow fishing conditions. If "soon" means
a day or two, he could be correct but if it means an hour or two, he doesn't
understand what he is talking about. To put this in a different way, when the low is
the lowest and it is raining and storming or threatening to storm, they may say the
cold front is here and affecting the fishing when there's a low front present. Then
after the front passes, and the barometer starts rising fast, they still talk about the
effects of the front. I don't mean to knock anyone, but many anglers simply do not
understand basic frontal weather systems. Whenever they fail to catch fish, they
often use the barometer or a front as an excuse whether or not it's a low, high,
stationary or an occluded frontal system they are fishing under.  

Air pressure is the force at which air is pressing down on the surface of the Earth. It
is measured by a barometer. You cannot feel it, but there's air pressure all around
you. Wherever there’s air, there’s air pressure. At sea level the pressure is greater
than it is on top of a high mountain. When the air temperature falls, the air pressure
increases as the cool air sinks towards the ground. Warm air that is near the
surface of the earth tends to rise. A mass of low pressure is a large area of air that
is rising. When this happens, or the air rises, it expands and cools. Cool air cannot
hold as much water as warm air and when the air rises, the water will condense and
form clouds. This is the reason an area of low pressure usually means clouds and
rain.

Just the opposite of that, is an area of high pressure. It consists of a section of air
that is sinking. When this happens, the air warms as it sinks. Warm air can hold
more water than cool air and therefore, it usually doesn’t rain. High- pressure
systems are usually accompanied by fair weather. Winds blow from high to low
pressure, but because of the earth’s rotation and friction caused as the air moves
across the surface of the earth, the winds blow around the high and low-pressure
systems. The greater the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind will blow.

A front extends from the ground far up into the atmosphere. It can either be a warm
front or a cold front. If cold air is approaching and replacing the warmer air, then it is
called a cold front. If warm air is replacing colder air then it is called a warm front.
Warm fronts have warm air approaching from behind colder air. Warm air has a
tendency to rise above cold air. This is because cold air is denser and heavier than
warm air. As the air rises above the cold air it cools and moisture contained within it
condenses and clouds are formed. It eventually rains. This is the reason why it often
rains when a warm front passes.

In the United States, a cold front often follows a warm front. The cold fronts normally
travel faster than the warm fronts. This in effect, allows them to catch up with the
leading warm front. When the cold front approaches, the area of warm air is forced
up over the cold air. The cold air behind the front will be forced under the warm air.
When this happens, the warm air is pushed off the ground. This is called an
occluded front.

A very neat way to locate the center of a low-pressure system is to face into the
wind. The center of the low is 120 degrees relative to the direction you are facing.
That will be just behind you and to your right side.

Summary relating to trout fishing in the Smokies:
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, given a choice, I would always take a low
pressure system over a high pressure system. Remember, to put this in barometric
pressure terms, I would take a falling barometer or a low pressure system over a
rising barometer or high pressure system. If the barometric pressure was steady, I
would want it steady on the low side, not the high side.

This doesn't mean you cannot catch plenty of trout during a high pressure system.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, trout that feed on insects are not
affected by the pressure in a direct manner; however, it may affect the numbers and
intensity of a hatch. Most mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies tend to hatch in much
larger quantities during a low pressure system or cloudy, rainy day than they do on
a high pressure system associated with clear, bright skies.

In contrast, the pressure would generally have more of a direct effect on trout
feeding on baitfish.
It would affect the larger brown trout more than anything.
That's because they are nocturnal. They feed mostly during low light conditions.
When the barometric pressure is low, clouds usually form and lower the light
conditions in the water to where the brown trout can catch their prey easier and
probably have a better sense of security. It doesn't mean they will necessarily come
out of their hiding places and feed each time it gets cloudy. It does mean they would
be more apt to feed than they would during bright, blue bird sky conditions.

In a sentence, I would say the overall effects of air pressure, or a rising or falling
barometer isn't something you have to worry about with trout fishing in the Smokies
near as much as if you were bass fishing but it can be a factor with hatch intensity
and the feeding habits of larger brown trout.


Copyright 2010 James Marsh
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