One of the best and most pleasant ways to catch fish during the summer is to go after them at night. It’s cooler, plus you and your fellow fishermen have the lake to yourselves. If you are nervous about driving around in the dark, you can stay around the marina until you feel comfortable. The marina is a dynamite place to start fishing because the lights at the marina attract all kinds of fry – clouds of them. The fishing can be excellent.
Night fishing has definite advantages. During the day, pleasure boats and skiers can make fishing less than idyllic. There is very little traffic at night, and people tend to slow down in the dark. But what makes night fishing worthwhile is that fish of all kinds are out looking for a bite to eat once the sun goes down. We were fishing a nighttime bass tournament once, and everyone in the club was catching walleye on crankbaits. One of our guys caught the second-place state record walleye that night!
To be legal in my home state, you must leave your running lights on all night long, even if you are fishing close to shore and the big motor is shut down. It’s a good idea to wear your life jacket always, too. They don’t do you good if you don’t have them on. Invest in a self-inflating model if you feel like it’s too hot to wear a life vest all night. They run about $250 or so, but the manual ones are way cheaper and cooler to wear!
If you are going to move around much, get a good GPS unit with mapping or at least a paper map, plus a spotlight. And slow down. At full throttle, it may be too late by the time you see the island looming up in front of you. It wouldn’t hurt to brush up on boating rules and the meaning of the different buoys, either. Buoys can mean rocks you can go around on either side or a reef that is dangerous to shore. Best that you know these things before it becomes crucial. The bonus is that many insurance companies will give you a discount if you take a boating safety course. You can even take many online and print out a certificate after you pass.
Lures and Techniques
This may seem counterintuitive, but bass fishermen should remember that darker baits are better at night because the silhouette of a dark lure shows up better as the fish looks up toward the night sky. Berkley PowerBait Power Worms, dark crankbaits, jigs, and dark spinnerbaits are good for bass at night. Fishing floating worms or tube jigs on a split-shot rig can be good too.
You can fish for bass at night as you fish for them during the day – pound the bank or fish deeper structure. No fancy retrieves are necessary at night. Steadily moving lures are easier for the bass to hone in on, and a bit of a rattle in your lure helps too.
On our desert reservoirs, we catch a lot of bass at night on big football head jigs fished on rock piles. The rocks hold crawdads, and the jigs are the perfect lure for them. Use 5/8- to 1-ounce football head jigs with twin tail grubs and skirts. Often, the bite feels like nothing – almost like somebody cut your line. When that happens, set the hook. Fluorocarbon or braided lines can make setting the hook on deep fish easier. Use small hops to fish the jigs over and around the rocks – those big chunks of lead make plenty of racket, so they are easy for the bass to locate at night.
One proven nighttime lure here in Arizona is the Westy Worm. It is a double-hooked worm hopped down a bank or dropped down to structure. Fish these on a spinning rod with a soft tip and some backbone. Use pretty light line. If you are fishing structure, drop the Westy to the bottom until the line slows. Reel in the slack until the line is taut, but not too taut. You want the head on the bottom. A word of warning here: Westy Worms are snags waiting to happen. They work best on rocky or sandy bottoms. Those exposed hooks will grab any stick or grass around.
My favorite Westys are made with super floater worms that stand up off the bottom. Hop the worm around slowly by raising and lowering the rod. When you get a bite, it will feel like pressure when you lift the rod – almost like you hooked a rubber band. Don’t slam the rod to set the hook – the fine wire hooks will set themselves if you just reel and raise the rod. Have your partner ready the net because if you try to sling the fish overboard, those hooks will just straighten out.
No matter how bright the moon is, it isn’t going to be bright enough to drive by. You’ll need a spotlight. Go for power – at least a million candle power. For about $30, you can get one that will plug into the cigarette lighter on your boat.
Lighting up your path is one thing, but a spotlight is an overkill when you just need to re-tie. Several different kinds of hands-free lights can be directed at your work. Cap Lights clip to the underside of your cap brim and come in regular LED and LED black lights. A black light will make a fluorescent fishing line glow like a neon tube, making it much easier to detect bites.
Casting toward shore can be frustrating at night if you can’t see what you’re doing. Your lure keeps ending up in the bushes or up on the rocks. Many anglers use a black light or neon light mounted on the side of the boat to light up the shoreline and their fishing line. Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, and your local tackle shop will have a variety of them at prices starting as low as $20.
Optronics has a variety of submersible LED Fish-N-Lights. Some plug into the cigarette lighter, some have alligator clips to attach to the battery, and still others will run for hours off AAA batteries. They can be attached to make longer light units, and the green lights lure even more baitfish than white ones.
…And The Net
You’ll appreciate Net Lights if you’ve ever stabbed the net blindly into the water after an invisible fish. These LED flashlights are available with white or green lights. What makes them different is that they offer a mount that allows you to attach the flashlight to the handle of your net, so it shines right where you need it. No more trying to hold the flashlight in one hand (or your mouth!) and net a big hawg with the other.
No need to be nervous about venturing out on the water at night. Take it slow and easy, make sure you have the right equipment and have a good time. There’s no law against staying close to the marina lights your first few times out, either. If you don’t have a boat, don’t let that keep you home – shore fishing is fantastic at night, too. Get yourself a Zebco Hawg Seeker combo (priced around $40-$45), relax and watch the stars. Your reel will flash a red light and sound an alarm when you get bit. Life is good.
For More Information
Optronics Fish-N-Lites http://www.optronicsinc.com/
Coleman Spotlights www.coleman.com
Net Light https://flashlightsunlimited.com/minibeam.htm
Zebco Hawg Seeker combos https://www.zebco.com/
Boating Safety courses, etc. http://uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/boating-safety-courses.php