FRANKFORT, Ky. --The up and down nature of spring weather can cause consternation among anglers when planning fishing trips. Concerns about the weather is one of two things to consider when planning fishing trips this spring.
1. Barometric pressure is key to unlocking fish behavior in spring:
Barometric pressure is the measurement of the weight of an entire column of air pressing down upon the Earth. Approaching storm fronts in spring ease this weight, resulting in low barometric pressure. The low pressure releases humidity trapped in the atmosphere, resulting in rain or snow.
The dark, low clouds, winds and precipitation that accompany low pressure systems limit light penetration into the water column, providing a better environment for predator fish to ambush prey. Fish do bite better before a front. High pressure systems follow low pressure frontal systems. In North America, high pressure systems flow out in a clockwise pattern, resulting first in winds from the north and eventually from the east.
A couple of days of stable weather in spring ease the influence of high pressure and get fish biting again. The sunny days typical of high pressure warm the water and stir fish activity. Plan your trips this spring to fish either right before a low pressure system or on the third or fourth day of stable weather.
2. Making sense of the USGS streamflow charts to plan float trips on Kentucky streams:
The streamflow information on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) webpage at www.waterdata.usgs.gov provides invaluable information for paddlers and anglers. On this page, select Kentucky from the drop down menu on the top right hand corner to view the flow on streams on all of the river drainages in Kentucky.
The rate of flow on this page shows as CFS or cubic feet per second. The cubic feet per second expresses the amount of flow that passes the USGS stream gauges per second. The higher the CFS, the higher and swifter the water.
The chart for an individual stream shows the discharge for each day of the preceding week as well as the current day. A small triangle on the chart shows the median, or midpoint, flow for each day based on years of data. A flow measuring much higher than the median means high, and usually muddy, water, not the best conditions for fishing and floating.
A flow under the median usually means tolerable fishing and paddling conditions. The USGS streamflow page also has a chart showing the gauge height for each stream. This helps flesh out the data provided by the streamflow chart. This chart provides a good mental image of the rise, fall or stability of the stream over the last week.
The new Canoeing and Kayaking page on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at www.fw.ky.gov is another invaluable repository of information for stream anglers and paddlers. This page leads to information collected by biologists concerning the fish populations in a stream, the recommended levels for floating selected streams, photos of access sites and fishing tips. The page also contains a link to the Blue Water Trails series, an ongoing initiative detailing the paddling and fishing on streams across Kentucky as well as a printable map.