7 Reasons Why Do Fish Jump Out Of The Water

Fish are generally known for swimming in water and remaining under the surface at all times. However, certain fish have a tendency to leap from the water, with some species reaching amazing heights.  

But, why exactly do fish decide to come to the surface and jump out of the water? Fortunately, many experts in the field have already researched this topic and come up with some pretty conclusive answers.

Therefore, in this guide, we’ll take a closer look at seven of the main reasons why fish decide to jump out of the water, as well as some of the changes you can make to give yourself a better chance of getting a successful bite. We’ll also look to answer a number of the frequently asked questions. 

1). To Get Food

Food is often the main motivator for many creatures to perform extraordinary and out-of-character feats, and fish are no exception.

The food that many fish crave isn’t underneath the water, but hanging just above the surface or flying around in the sky. Therefore, to eat such food, fish have to employ a slightly unorthodox method. 

Some of the most common examples of this include a bass leaping out of the water to catch a dragonfly or a trout coming to the surface to feast upon crickets. 

While low-flying targets are definitely the easiest for fish to catch, there are some fish such as the Monkey fish found in the Amazon basin that can leap incredibly high out of the water to catch their prey. 

In fact, the shape of a Monkey fish’s mouth has actually evolved in a way that helps them to easily catch any unsuspecting prey, including birds, insects, bats, and crustaceans. 

Another impressive fish you may have seen on documentaries is the silver Arowana. This fish can secure its prey (usually insects) from branches of nearby trees that are up to a meter above the water’s surface. 

2). To Stay Away From Predators 

As is the case with all living creatures on the planet, predators are always on the lookout for prey, while all animals lower on the food chain have a natural instinct to protect themselves from their predators. 

This is a basic concept of any food chain and vitally important. For example, if a prey suddenly decided to stop protecting itself, the whole food chain would subsequently crumble. 

While fish are an incredibly important part of food chains in marine life, predatory fish aren’t always on the hunt for other (usually smaller) fish. Predators tend to hunt for other fish during certain times of the day or when they’re hungry. 

As a result, the vast majority of their hunting attempts aren’t long-distance chases, but more like a sudden attack, as they rely on the element of surprise to capture their prey. 

In order for smaller fish to stand any chance of survival, they need to save themselves by using their natural reflexes.

While this might simply be moving out of the way in time, it can also result in them jumping out of the water as a last-ditch defence mechanism to avoid a hungry predator. 

3). Low Oxygen Levels 

If the environment and quality of the water have deteriorated, fish sometimes have no choice other than to leap out of the water. To put it simply, there are times when it’s a matter of survival, so their instincts soon kick in if they feel they’re in real danger. 

In fact, some fish have even evolved to look for better living conditions above the surface of the water. So when they decide to leap out of the water, this is often to look for breathing space (oxygen). 

One prominent example of this is the African sharp-toothed Catfish. This particular species have evolved their lungs to be able to breathe for long periods outside the water. This way, they can safely survive in environments that have low levels of oxygen. 

4). To Procreate 

Fish can often move from their normal environment to spawn grounds, with some species demonstrating incredible aerobatics and spectacular jumps to safely get to these nurseries. 

This innate desire to procreate can really test the speed, strength, and stamina of a fish, with some species of Pacific salmon like Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye all renowned for their impressive navigation of steep, fast-flowing waterfalls. 

It’s not just salmon that behave this way with much other fish exhibiting similar behavior, albeit in a less dramatic manner. This is best seen during the spring when some fish scale a height of almost two meters in order to procreate in a safe environment. 

5). To Get Rid Of External Parasites

While the behavior of fish jumping out of the water might seem completely random at times, some biologists have theorized that it could be because they’re trying to debug themselves and get rid of external parasites. 

If attempts to remove a pesky parasite using their mouths or fins have proved unsuccessful, fish often leap out of the water due to sheer desperation and as a last resort to debug themselves.  

So, the next time you observe a fish unexpectedly? jump out of the water for no reason, it’s worth considering that it might be a desperate attempt to get rid of unwanted or irritating parasites. 

6). To Have Fun

While there’s little scientific evidence to support this, fish are often full of life, so it only makes sense that they’re leaping out of the water to enjoy life to the fullest. This is particularly likely for fish in peak physical condition and in the youth of their health. 

Just like kids down the playground are full of energy and enthusiastic about having lots of fun, fish like to behave in a similar manner. This can often be seen as they leap out of the water – a perfect demonstration of their joyful and positive wellbeing. 

7). For Romance 

This might not be the most likely reason for a fish jumping out of the water, but certain species of fish are known to gather together in big groups and throw themselves in a series of jumps out the water. 

This happens in the Gulf of Mexico during certain periods of the year, with male and female fish both jumping together – perhaps looking for a mate for some romance. 

Furthemore, some scientists have observed that many of the places where this behavior tends to occur are nurseries of certain species. When the males and females both jump together, it’s believed to indicate that fish of the same species are nearby. 

Subsequently, this brings a greater number of fish to the jump area to participate in the behavior, and then the romance begins. 

How To Get A Bite

Having discussed many of the reasons why fish tend to come to the surface of water and jump freely into the air, you’d be forgiven in thinking that it would be relatively straightforward to get a bite. However, this is far from the case. 

So why do people find it so difficult to get a bite when fish have a tendency to jump from the water in most ponds and lakes? The simple answer is that it all comes down to how you adjust your approach to a given situation. 

With this in mind, listed below are four important tips to keep in mind when it comes to improving your chances of getting a bite (using carp as an example). 

1). Change Your Fishing Technique 

If the fish are jumping out of the water, this obviously means that they’re spending a fair amount of time near the surface.

Therefore, instead of positioning your bait at the bottom or in the middle of the water column, it might be a good idea to position it on the surface (this is known as surface fishing). 

Carp, and a wide range of other fish species, have a tendency to feed on the surface due to the presence of insects and other food sources.

This is why it’s important that your bait stands out from the food sources if you want to successfully attract the interest of carp. 

2). Be Flexible With Your Location

Most experienced and skilled anglers know where to find carp in normal conditions, but what about when the carp is behaving differently and jumping out of the water? 

In situations like this, it’s important to be flexible and mobile, so you can test out a number of different locations. If there’s no action in your usual spot, take your gear and try another location. 

Almost every body of water has at least a few suitable locations you can try out. What’s more, if the carp are behaving differently, you can even try a couple of places you wouldn’t usually give a second thought to. 

If you’re fishing from a boat, it should be pretty straightforward to test out lots of different spots – especially if the water is clear and you’re able to observe the fish before deciding exactly where to catch. 

You can also use this map to find places to fish near you.

3). Change Your Bait

Carp can be caught on a wide range of baits, including bread, corn, boilies, pellets, and even dog biscuits. What’s more, all of these baits are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of. 

However, if the carp seems uninterested in your choice of bait, you may need to spice it up a little with some additives. You can also combine different surface baits together, with corn and boilies a particularly popular combination among anglers. 

It’s important to remember that some baits will prove more successful than others to carp. So, be sure to change your baits to see exactly what attracts them – variety is essential. 

Finally, make sure you don’t forget pre-baiting. This is particularly important when it comes to carp fishing. 

4). Choose A Different Rig 

This final consideration can often be the difference between success and failure. It’s a good idea to use a zig-rig as this enables you to precisely adjust the depth at which you want to present the bait. 

Essentially, the zig-rig can be compared to a suspended floater in the sense that it’s a long hoolink with a buoyant bait. You can either use a small piece of buoyant foam to keep the bait up or use a bait that’s already buoyant such as a pop-up. 

The vast majority of anglers use a zig-rig to fish in the middle of a water column. However, if you prefer to fish a little higher, and closer to the jumping carp, zig-rigs can be positioned here just as effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do fish jump out of the water at night? 

Many fish are nocturnal animals. This means that they sleep during the day and then wake up at night. During the day, they rest in dark areas where they are safe from predators. At night, they come out of hiding places and search for food.

Why do fish jump out of the water at night? 

This is because, at night, the fish can see better and smell better. Therefore, they can find their food easier. Also, since they’re awake, they are also more alert and ready to defend themselves against predators. 

Why do mullet fish jump out of the water? 

Mullet fish are bottom-dwelling fish. In other words, they live near the ocean floor. Their favorite foods are worms and small crustaceans, however when they’re disturbed, they often move to the top of the water to breathe better and look for food.

When mullet fish are disturbed or distressed, they may also jump out of the water. This is usually because they’re afraid of something.

For example, maybe they saw a predator nearby or maybe they heard an unfamiliar noise. Whatever the reason, it’s a sure-fire sign that they want to escape.

What does it mean when a fish jumps out of the tank? 

It means that they’re trying to escape from danger, usually predators or other fish that want to eat them. They’ll do this by jumping out of the water and trying to distance themselves from danger. 

Furthermore, another reason why a fish might try to jump out of a tank is if it’s in distress. This behavior can be seen with many species of fish including goldfish, guppies, koi, and tilapia.

It’s worth noting that it’s not uncommon for fish to become distressed when placed into a new environment such as a new tank or aquarium.

How do I stop my fish jumping out of the tank?

There are a number of different ways you can keep your fish safe. For example, you can make sure that the tank is large enough so that your fish doesn’t have to jump out of the way.

You can also add plants to your tank to provide plenty of cover and hideaways for your fish, while there are some specially-designed tanks that prevent your fish from jumping out. 

It’s worth noting however, that these methods only work if you’re keeping your fish in a well-ventilated and clean tank.

How long can fish live out of water? 

The average fish can live for roughly 10 minutes outside of water. However, it’s worth noting that this time-frame is significantly reduced if the fish lands on an absorbent surface.

Saltwater fish can survive for longer than 10 minutes out of water, while amphibious fish have particular adaptations that make them well-suited for also surviving extended periods outside of the water. 

How to make koi fish less aggressive and stop jumping? 

Koi fish are beautiful creatures, however, they can often be aggressive towards other fish. When they decide to attack, koi fish bite and hold onto their prey. 

If you own koi fish and you want to prevent this from happening, it might be a good idea to cover the bottom of your tank with some gravel.

This is because gravel is effective when it comes to protecting your fish from injury. Moreover, it also provides a comfortable surface for them to travel on. 

Can fish feel pain?

The short answer is yes. Fish are very sensitive to touch and pressure, therefore they’re able to sense pain and discomfort through touch.

Fish also have nerve endings all over their bodies which allow them to feel pain. These nerves are located in the skin, gills, eyes, fins, mouth, teeth, and intestines.

How do fish communicate?

Fish communicate using chemical signals called pheromones. Pheromones are chemicals used by animals to send messages to each other. Fish release these chemicals through their skin glands, urine, feces, and blood.

Pheromone communication is important for social interaction among members of a group. For example, male fish produce a specific type of pheromone that attracts females. These chemicals are released through the anal fin.

Pheromone communication is also important for sexual reproduction. During courtship, males will rub against females’ fins and secrete pheromones. This stimulates the female to respond by releasing her own pheromones.

Does it hurt fish when you catch and release them?

Yes, when you catch and release a fish, you’re hurting them. It’s not just that you’re catching and releasing a wild animal, what’s worse is that you’re also taking them away from their natural environment.

If you want to avoid hurting a fish when you catch and release it, try to capture them gently. To do this, use a net instead of any other method so you don’t accidentally injure the fish. 

Furthermore, make sure you carefully place them back into the water after you’ve caught them. Don’t keep them in a bucket, instead use a container that has holes in the lid.

You can then lower the container in the water until it’s over the top of the container and let the fish swim safely away. 

The Bottom Line

To conclude, there are lots of different reasons why a fish might decide to jump out of the water. It may be a defence mechanism to desperately avoid a nearby predator, but it could just as likely be an attempt to get rid of an external parasite from their body. 

Now that you’re aware of many of these fascinating factors, hopefully you’ll have a greater understanding when you’re next out on the water and unexpectedly see a fish leap into the air!

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Tommy Bull
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