Pressure Drop: Muskies vs the Barometer

Pressure Drop: Muskies vs the Barometer

Jodie Paul July 28, 2023

As if there aren’t enough rules for fishing muskies, this one is inspired by the last few weeks of fishing in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  We’ve had many calls to the shop about where to go, what to throw, and why aren’t these big girls biting.  The truth is there are a million factors to consider during your time on the water, but the latest ridiculous factor takes the cake: barometric pressure. 

This summer has been a strange one across the whole of the US, from the wet and wild thunderstorms of the Southern states to the unbelievable heat index of the Southwest, summer has indeed had some tricks up its sleeve to change the rules of fishing for our Northwoods Summer.  This year the weather has changed for the better and worse as the summer has been fairly cool, but it’s the barometric pressure that seems to keep the muskie's mouths locked up tight. So, if you didn’t have enough to keep you up at night, barometric readings are another page-turner.

Barometric pressure affects all of our planet’s occupants, but fish have an interesting adversity to the change in pressure due to their internal swim bladder.  Swim bladders are present to allow fish to regulate their position in the water column from low to high.  This swim bladder is an internally inflated sack that is very susceptible to external pressure systems. Pressures can cause them to feel bloated and uncomfortable, leading them to seek the best environment or deep water for regulation.

Though there are two schools of thought as to the effects of barometric pressure on larger predatory fish—one being that smaller fish are affected more and seek deeper structures causing the muskies to follow, or two being that muskies are adversely affected and retreat on their own.  Either causation ends with the same solution.  Variations in barometric pressure cause our favorite predator to act lackluster toward our offerings during frontal movements, basically hiding out until there is a positive change.

This year the Northwoods has experienced a lot of cooler days, heavy downpours, and even thunderstorms.  The constant change in the barometric pressure before and after these weather fronts are giving muskies a constant state of lockjaw.  Slowly dropping pressures are usually great, but constant fluctuation can give larger fish a hangover that they just can’t seem to recover from.

All of this being said, there is a solution and it’s one that has passed down from a previous generation.  “You’ll find success on the 3rd day of a warming trend,” which can be attributed to a slowly falling pressure or “catch the big muskies before the cold front.” This generally means the last successful day of fishing will likely be before a cold front moves in and the pressure increases.

Fishing a warming front will give you the best odds most times as falling pressure is desirable to most fish. It gives bait fish a comfortable rise toward a shallower structure. Also, the potential just hours ahead of a cold front will usually prove beneficial. These fish are getting in their “big eat” before the change. Getting the best action during fluctuating pressures or cold fronts means slowing down and going deep.  Though fishing for muskies is most times a grueling grind during changing weather patterns, the reward is always landing a whopper, so you can’t give up.  Keep an eye on the sky and the barometric pressure and you’ll develop a working understanding of what goes on below the surface.