By Ken Schultz
The Weather Channel once aired a segment that I filmed with them about fishing and the weather. It first ran on their now-defunct Atmospheres program at the end of December and in the first week of January, and was re-aired many times in the following months. I was surprised by the number of people who saw that episode and contacted me about it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, because, next to ESPN, the Weather Channel is probably the most popular network for anglers and hunters.
In the segment, I introduced Atmosphere’s co-host Mish Michaels to fishing, briefly giving her some casting lessons with spinning tackle and then helping her catch her first bass and pickerel. She had fun, which came through in the show, and which was great for helping to expose the sport to many people who may not fish.
Additionally, however, our purpose was to talk about the affects of weather on fish and fishing. Fortunately the weather played into our hands in the two days of filming, as we had a very warm day followed by a cold, blustery, overcast day.
At the outset of the second day of fishing, Mish asked me if
we were likely to catch more bass that day than pickerel. It was darkly overcast at the time and on the previous day we’d caught more pickerel, and it had been very bright out. I told her that pickerel were unaffected by the bright light and preferred sparkly, flashy lures, which are quite visible in bright conditions. My response to her question was that we probably would catch more bass under darker conditions.
No sooner had this conversation ended than she got a strike on her shallow-running crankbait. It was about a 14-inch-long largemouth bass. We caught three largemouths to every pickerel that morning.
We also had to deal with gusting and swirling wind, which made light-boat control problematic and sometimes made it more difficult to effect proper presentations. Besides catching fish, Mish got to experience cold air temperature, wind, hot weather, bright light, dark skies – all of the things that are commonly experienced by anglers in the course of fishing.
Weather is probably the biggest variable that exists in sportfishing. Of course, weather is often blamed for poor fishing results, although sometimes that’s a bit convenient. Obviously anglers are affected by weather every time they go fishing. Some elements of weather are most significant because they impair fishing techniques or angler effectiveness. Some types of weather evidently affect the personal comfort of anglers more than they do the fish, like extreme temperatures, cold rain, and wind.
The extent to which fish are affected by the weather has been a source of uncertainty and speculation for ages. Some elements of weather are known to have certain general affects on fish, but there is no clear scientific proof, nor is there solid evidence that all fish are affected in the same way; if anything, it may be just the opposite.
Freshwater species, for example, are more adversely impacted by exceptional weather events than saltwater fish, and deep dwellers seem less affected by most weather than residents of shallow environs.
Often a period of several days of stable weather is the best news anglers can have. Fish react favorably to this and get into a pattern that anglers can take great advantage of.
We are at a time of year, however, when my least favorite element of weather, a thunderstorm, is prevalent. Many anglers have told me of experiences when their line was humming, when the hair on their forearms stood up, when cast line levitated off the water. All of which means that they waited too long to get their butt in a safe place. Usually, I head for refuge when I see or hear the signs of a thunderstorm.
But you don’t always see one coming. Once I was on the Delaware River near Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, when a light rain caught up to me and three companions as we kayaked and fished. We thought little of it, heard no thunder, and did not look back upriver. So it was a surprise as we kept paddling downriver when a telltale flash occurred, followed moments later by the boom of a lightning strike a short distance away. We paddled fast to shore and took refuge for over a half hour, experiencing nothing more serious than a cold soaking, but it occurred to me that this would have been an interesting twist for that Weather Channel show.
And it reminded me to keep an eye on the sky.
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