Fishing Considerations - How does weather and water quality affect fishing?
There are a number of factors that can make the difference between catching fish and coming up empty. While many of the aspects that affect fishing are beyond control, RECON's real time weather and water quality data can be used to help you decide what to fish for and where you might have a better chance of catching fish. Nothing can predict the time or location fish will be biting, but looking at real time and historical data and comparing it to your actual experiences on the water can be a powerful tool.
Using RECON to improve your fishing
RECON can help you understand when or where it might be better to fish . By noting your time and location when catching fish, you will be able to look up the water quality and weather conditions at the same time and take notes. For example, if you are catching snook in Redfish Pass from 8 to 11 in the morning and the bite shuts down, you can look back at the data from that time frame and try to determine what changed. Maybe the tide went slack or was flowing out and brought in some darker water. You can also note what conditions were like when the bite was good and try to find similar conditions the next time you go out. There is a tremendous amount of near real time data available for fisherman and others to take advantage of. Please remember that RECON is only one of many possible tools to use for deciding when, where, and what to fish for.
Wind Speed & Wind Direction
Wind can be a plus or a minus when it comes to catching fish. The most obvious effect of wind is on the ability to see, or not see, what you are casting towards. The speed and direction of wind also influences waves, and to a lesser extent, the currents of the water. The most noticeable effect of winds that drive currents onshore may be the accumulation of zooplankton and phytoplankton near beaches. This concentration of food can draw baitfish, which consequently attract predatory fish. Winds will also stir up the water, adding disolved oxygen and increasing feeding activity in fish. If it is windy enough to cause greater turbidity in the water, fish may leave an area to find better conditions. It is also presumed that fish feed better on the surface during turbid conditions, meaning that windy days may be the time to go with topwater lures. It is also important to note the direction and speed of the wind when deciding where to fish.
Air temperature directly influences the water temperature. When there are events such as cold or warm fronts, the water column can warm or cool unevenly, with the top layer differing greatly from the lower layer. Fish may alter their position in the water column or move to find more favorable conditions.
Rain can affect fish because of its influence on other factors such as water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and FDOM(water color). Most fish are sight feeders, so when the water is turbid from the rain and darker in color from runoff, they may rely more on their other senses to locate prey. Fish may congregate around inflows to take advantage of organic matter and other food sources being washed into the water. Large inputs of rain, from a hurricane for example, may cause fish to stop feeding as salinity and temperature change significantly.
Looking at wave heights can help you decide where to go fishing in the first place, especially if you will be in a smaller boat and it may not be safe to venture offshore. Waves will alter the turbidity of the water and can concentrate food for baitfish, and therefore predatory fish. Large amounts of wave action can make it difficult for fish to see shadows and predators, so they may be more inclined to feed at the surface. Since it is harder for fish to see at the surface, fishermen may be able to get closer to feeding fish without being detected.
The moon plays a very important role in fishing in because of its influence on tidal activity. Tides have the greatest variability (higher highs and lower lows) during the new and full moon phases. This means that the speeds of currents will be greater and baitfish may be washed out of normal areas. In general, fishing should be better when the water is flowing, either a rising or falling tide. Lower tides may be best for surf fishing from the beach as the troughs and channels are exposed during low water. The higher tides also allow baitfish and predators access to flats and areas that they are usually unable to use. Ambush feeding sportfish often place themselves in opportune spots where baitfish will come off of these flats as the tide is falling. We are located in an area where the tides are “Mixed Semi-Diurnal,” meaning there are two high tides (and two low tides) a day of differing heights.
Changes in barometric pressure will affect how and when fish feed. Stable weather is when fish are going to be following normal routines and behaviors. If the weather is changing, fish will not be acclimated to the conditions and may feed better after a few days of stability. When cold fronts come through, the steadily declining pressure may cause a fish to actively feed for a short period of time, but as the pressure stabilizes and starts to rise, most feeding activity will cease.
The salt content of the water, or salinity, can influence where fish are found. Different species of fish have different preferences for how much salt is in the water. In many coastal areas, the salinity does not vary much. However, in an estuary such as the Caloosahatchee, salinity levels can fluctuate greatly. In general, as you move away from the mouth of the Caloosahatchee, salinity levels will tend to be more stable.
Fish are highly affected by different water temperatures because they are cold blooded. Thus, they are more active (and likely to feed) at warmer temperatures and can become less likely to bite with cooler temperatures. Different species of fish have a preferred temperature range. Some species such as Tarpon will migrate to stay in their preferred temperatures while others will move to different depths to regulate their temperature (i.e. deeper channels may remain warmer during a passing cold front).
Turbidity is a measure of suspended particles in the water column that make the water appear cloudy. Because fish primarily feed by sight, it can greatly affect where the fish are or how they are feeding. Fish can also use turbid water to their advantage if there is a defined edge where they can wait to ambush prey.
Fish extract dissolved oxygen from the surrounding water using their gills and some, such as the Tarpon, are able to gulp air to supplement oxygen intake. Certain conditions such as wave action, cooler temperatures, lower salinity, clear water, and photosynthesis increase dissolved oxygen in the water. Processes that deplete dissolved oxygen include respiration, decomposition of plants/animals, murky water, and higher salinity and temperatures. In general, fish will be more active and likely to feed if there is ample dissolved oxygen available in the water.
FDOM (Florescent Dissolved Organic Matter) is a way to measure the color of the water. As FDOM increases, the color of the water changes from blue to green, yellow, and ultimately brown. This is because the tannins in high FDOM water absorb the shorter wavelength colors of blue and green. Because FDOM absorbs light in the water column, it can affect fishing in several ways. If you are fishing in high FDOM waters, you may want to alter the color of your lure to account for the color absorption, i.e., you may want to use a red lure because the blue and green colors will not show up as well. If the water is dark enough, fish may alter their feeding behavior or even leave an area to find more favorable conditions.
Chlorophyll can be used to determine where the food, and therefore, the fish are located. Chlorophyll measures tiny plants called phytoplankton which make up the base of the food chain in oceans. Bait fish will gather around concentrations of phytoplankton and predatory fish will gather around bait. Chlorophyll is more often relevant when fishing offshore in blue water utilizing satellite images. High chlorophyll readings can be an indicator of algae blooms and/or play a role in the color of the water, so very high chlorophyll areas might want to be avoided.