BOB MAINDELLE: Fighting against fast paced weather fronts | Outdoor sports
Starting in September, the passage of cold fronts through central Texas brings our fall and winter seasons.
At first, the foreheads are generally soft and widely spaced. At this time of late November, several cold fronts can appear within a week.
Obviously, anglers cannot control the weather, but by understanding how different parts of the frontal cycle impact fishing, we can time our efforts to take advantage of the best fishing offered by frontal cycles, avoid the negative impacts of cold fronts, and adjust our expectations regardless of when we fish during the cycle.
So what is this cycle? Let’s start with the normal time before the arrival of a front. In central Texas, a typical late fall / early winter day will see south-southeast winds accompanied by mild temperatures.
According to Current Results Publishing Inc., our average maximum temperature for November is 72 and the minimum average is 50. A maximum average of 64 and a minimum average of 44 are expected for December.
Cloud cover during this period varies widely, being generally sparse after a front and increasingly heavy before a front arrives.
As a cold front approaches the area, our local meteorologists are all trying to use models and observations to predict when the front will arrive. They do this because severe weather conditions, including lightning, heavy rain, and / or high winds, can accompany this event.
In the hours preceding the arrival of a front, a prefrontal warming of the atmosphere can occur as the atmosphere is compressed between the weather in the southeast and the weather arriving in the northwest.
In the minutes before a front arrives, the winds usually subside briefly, then begin to change direction rapidly, blowing first from the southwest, then from the west, then veering to the northwest. when the front is on us.
As the front reaches us, the winds will quickly increase in strength and become gusty. The temperature will drop noticeably and thunderstorm activity will often occur, accompanied by thunder, lightning and rain. Softer fronts can pass without such storms.
After the front moves to our east, the winds will continue to strengthen and blow from the northwest or north, and temperatures will continue to drop, even during the day. Barometric pressure rises and the sky becomes clearer and clearer.
Eventually (sometimes over a few hours and sometimes over several days) the post-frontal winds will peak and then begin to slow down. As the high pressure system that was preceded by the front moves over central Texas, barometric pressure will peak, winds will be calm, and clear, clear and cold conditions will be experienced.
The warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico will return to central Texas with the fall of the high pressure, and we will have completed the frontal cycle with the return of south-southeast winds accompanied by mild temperatures.
Unfortunately, our fishing manuals and traditions tend to oversimplify matters. How many times have you heard the old adage, “The westerly winds are the fish that bite the best.” Winds from the east, the fish bite less. The southerly winds blow the hook into the mouth of the fish; but the northerly winds, the fisherman does not go out?
While there is some truth to these old lines, we need to take a closer look at the weather picture.
My observations from 30 seasons on Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes have yielded some useful trends.
In my opinion, the best fishing during the frontal cycle is from the time the winds turn west and northwest and severe weather (if it occurs) passes, until the time the northerly winds reach their maximum speed. When all of this takes place during the daylight hours, and especially the morning hours, the activity of the fish will be well above average.
Sometimes a soft front will pass, the winds will increase during the daytime hours, weaken a bit during the night hours and resume the next day. The day after the front pass will also produce above average results.
Other times all this frontal activity will take place under the cover of darkness, and we anglers will miss out on “what might have been” if the front had passed during the day.
Either way, the fishing starts to decline once the winds reach their maximum speed and start to subside. This is called the post-frontal period.
Fishing tends to be at its peak once the winds ease and are accompanied by clear skies, bright sunshine and cold conditions.
Fishing resumes as soon as a southerly wind returns with at least cloud cover and an increase in air temperature. The fishing will remain average as long as the winds are blowing from the south, southeast or southwest.
Fishing will resume with prefrontal warming and increasing southwest wind before another front arrives. The fishing will then decrease sharply as the winds weaken within minutes or hours of the transition from southwest winds to northwest winds. The cycle then repeats.
When this cycle takes place several times in the same week, as has happened recently, we experience a marked drop in water temperature.
Remembering that fish are cold-blooded creatures and their metabolism decreases with the temperature of their environment, it’s easier to see why the fantastic frontal fishing in late October would be better than the frontal fishing here in late November. The water temperature is now 10 degrees cooler than it was a month ago. While the relative activity of the fish is greater when a front passes, it is unlikely to be as good as it was when the water was warmer, all other things being equal.
We have a lot of solid fishing ahead of us. Even when the water temperature hits its annual minimum, fish can still be caught consistently.
Again, the purpose of this article is, in part, to help anglers have reasonable expectations, thereby helping them define success based on where in the frontal cycle their fishing efforts are applied.