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Fishing Wives' Tales: How True are They?

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
October 18, 2012; 10:54 AM

It seems that no one is exempt from weather folklore -- not even fisherman. Wives' tales advising the best and worst conditions for fishing have been around for decades, but do they have any validity? Many seem to think so.

"Fish bite least with wind from the east," is one of the more common sayings. A simple google search reveals various explanations of this rhyme by dozens of fisherman, but there doesn't appear to be any conclusive evidence.

According to Jerry Wilson, of Wilstar.com, "In the U.S. the prevailing winds are from the west, northwest, or southwest. As a general rule, winds coming from a westerly direction signifies good weather. It is only a matter of conjecture, however, if fish react to the direction of the wind."

"Trout jump high when rain is nigh," is another long-held wives' tale in question. Experts say this may have some validity.

When rain is "nigh" or impending, low pressure systems generally occur. This lowering of pressure can cause plant particles that were trapped at the bottom of a lake to rise. When this occurs, microscopic organisms are dispersed in the water and provides feed for small fish. The small fish, in turn, become food for larger fish.

The saying may be referring to this increased activity, and not necessarily jumping trout in particular.

Fish biologist Rob Mottice from the Tennessee Aquarium shared his expertise on the matter with WUTC 88.1 FM.

"I have seen a lot of different behavior patterns change due to an approaching storm." he said in the interview. "Fish can feel the change in barometric pressure and as the pressure starts to decrease as a storm is approaching, they like it. They get very active and they are swimming around looking for food."

"They know once the storm is on top of them, barometric pressure will then begin to stabilize and then will start to increase. They don't like that change going back to the original pressure, so they will go off their feed, so to speak, and normally they head to the bottom, look for cover, and hold off or hunker down, as i like to say, until the storm passes through," Mottice said.

This only holds true to fresh water fish, however, as salt water environments are often deep and less effected by the pressure change, he explained.

Wives' tales or not, they may something to think about before heading out at the break of dawn for a day of fishing.

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