- Mark Fisher forecast natural gas prices will break $4 or $5 per mmbtu once a streak of warm winters breaks.
- Fisher says general investors could buy into natural gas drillers rather than trying to time commodity price moves.
- Fisher is less bullish on oil drillers and thinks crude will remain stuck in a range between $40 and $50 a barrel for some time.
Renowned energy trader Mark Fisher on Thursday forecast that a string of unseasonably warm winters will break and send natural gas above $4 or $5 per million British thermal units.
Natural gas prices have remained locked in a range between about $2.75 and $3.25 per mmbtu, but Fisher believes in the next year or two, winter temperatures will return to normal levels and push up fuel costs.
"At some point nat gas is going to trade with a four-, five-handle on it and surprise a lot of people," the MBF Clearing founder and CEO told CNBC's "Fast Money: Halftime Report."
"In energy, natural gas has the potential for the most upside," he said.
Investors who bought into big-cap natural gas players will be rewarded for waiting, said Fisher. He declined to offer his stock picks, but did say he isn't certain the heavily indebted shale pioneer Chesapeake Energy would survive.
Chesapeake did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
The general investor will be better served by investing in natural gas drillers than by trying to time price moves in the commodity, which Fisher called "a not effective strategy over the last 12 months."
"For those who feel that they have some knowledge of the markets ... there's still opportunity to trade the futures market, for sure," he said. "I think there's going to be a lot of volatility coming up in nat gas and power."
Fisher favors drillers with natural gas exposure to those focused on oil exploration and production. For the time being, crude prices will remain stuck in a range between $40 and $50 a barrel, he said.
The reason: traders are unwinding their bullish bets when oil prices approach $50 a barrel and covering their short positions when crude heads toward $40, Fisher said.
Many U.S. oil drillers will be able to survive and big oil's dividends are not in jeopardy with prices range bound between $40 and $50, Fisher said. He does see more mergers and acquisitions on the horizon as energy firms seek to cut fat.