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How Does High Pressure Affect Ice Fishing?

How Does High Pressure Affect Ice Fishing?

As anglers, we all pay attention to weather and use it to determine when we should fish. During ice fishing season, we don’t worry about the weather as much because we don’t think it makes a difference. Cold is cold right?


Barometric pressure can have a significant impact on the success of your outing because it impacts the way the fish feel. If they’re feeling tired and sluggish, they’re less likely to strike. But, how do you know when they’re feeling that way?

This guide will help you understand what barometric pressure is, why it affects the fish, and how you can determine the pressure on the day of your fishing trip.

What is Barometric Pressure?

Barometric pressure

Barometric pressure refers to the amount of pressure in the atmosphere. It’s measured using something called millibars, and this measurement represents consistent changes in the amount of pressure in the air.

As the pressure goes down, the millibars go down. As the pressure goes up, the millibars go up.

What does this have to do with fishing? Great question. The amount of barometric pressure in the air has an impact on how the fish behave. One thing that a lot of ice fishermen pay attention to is the weather. But, one thing they struggle to understand is barometric pressure.

Temperature and pressure go hand-in-hand, and you can’t have one without the other. If you’re trying to get serious and improve your ice fishing game, it’s important that you try and understand what barometric pressure is and how it impacts your fishing.

How Does High Pressure Affect Ice Fishing? 

swim bladder

Fish have something called a swim bladder that impacts the way they feel and how aggressively they strike. During extended periods of high pressure, it puts more pressure on their swim bladder, causing them to feel lethargic.

When fish feel lethargic, they’re less likely to strike. This is even more true when it comes to ice fishing because cold weather also slows down most species of fish, with the exception of walleye and pike.

The question is, how does high pressure affect ice fishing and how do you know if it’s a high pressure day?

One example of a high pressure system is a cold front. If you experience a week or so of warm weather followed by one or two days of colder weather, those two days are likely the result of a high pressure system.

High pressure is also accompanied by very dull weather systems. This means that high pressure brings dry and calm air. If you’re fishing and there is very little humidity and no wind, fish won’t like that. We refer to this as “stale” air and it causes the fish to feel lethargic and uninspired.

How Does Low Pressure Affect Ice Fishing?

fishing during low pressure

So, the immediate assumption is that fishing is better during low pressure. It’s not quite that simple though. Low pressure usually results in stormy weather, and while a slight sprinkle won’t turn fish away, intense downpours, thunder, and lightning will.

The best way to target fish during this time is to go to them in their hiding areas. They won’t have that lethargic tendency that they would during high pressure, but they’re not going to venture too far from their hiding spot.

If you’re fishing during a snowstorm, you’ll want to look towards cover and go at them slower than you normally would with a jig or jerk bait.

Is Ice Fishing Better with High or Low Pressure?

low pressure vs. high pressure

That begs the question, is fishing better during high or low pressure? The answer is, low pressure in the right conditions. The best time to fish is actually during periods of extended falling pressure. This is a transition between two weather patterns where the pressure is falling leading up to a storm.

For example, let’s say you’re expecting a heavy storm tomorrow and you’re planning to go ice fishing today. You have the best chance of catching more fish because the pressure is falling leading up to the storm.

Bear in mind that a lot of these principles apply to warm-weather fishing and won’t have as significant an impact in the cold. Since it’s cold outside, the pressure tends to lean higher because of the surplus of dry air.

What are the Best Conditions for Ice Fishing?

best conditions for ice fishing

The best conditions for ice fishing are extended periods of mild weather leading up to an approaching weather system. As mentioned previously, the best time to fish is before a storm. This is when the pressure is falling, and the fish know that they need to feed leading up to the storm because they might not be able to once it begins.

If you can find a streak of mild temperatures where the weather warms up a little before a storm, this is the best of the best. The milder temperatures will allow the fish to be more active and the reduced pressure will give them more of the energy they need to feed.

What is the Best Barometric Pressure to Ice Fish?

Barometric Pressure and Fishing - Learn with Landers

We know that extended low pressure is the best time for ice fishing, but what exactly should the barometric pressure be? A rating between 29-30.50 is considered the best for ice fishing. This is low-medium pressure that will be met by moderate feeding from most fish species.

Keep in mind that stability in terms of pressure is also important. If you’re planning the best time to ice fish, you’ll want to go once the low pressure system has stabilized a little after falling dramatically.

How Can You Figure Out Current Barometric Pressure?

weather station to figure out barometric pressure

The best way to figure out barometric pressure is with a weather station . These affordable devices tell you the current reading so you can determine if it’s the best time to fish.

Also, there are some ice fishing fish finders  that will tell you the current pressure as well. While these are more difficult to find in the ice fishing variety, if you shop around, you’re sure to find something.

Final Thoughts

So, how does high pressure affect ice fishing? It puts excess pressure on the fish’s swim bladder and makes them feel lethargic. During high pressure systems, you’ll need to slow down your presentation, size down your lures, and expect little to no action because the fish simply aren’t biting.

Use barometric pressure to your advantage by getting a weather station or paying attention to the current weather patterns to figure it out for yourself. Good luck out there!