By Mark Fike
Come summer, temperatures and bright sun make daytime fishing a tough, sweaty prospect at times and this is particularly true the further south you travel. Fish feeding activity can also slow down some too. So what is an angler to do?
Do what the fish do, become more active during low light or no light periods! It is amazing how few anglers actually have tried to fish at night. Fishing at night can be good for just about all species of fish. Most people attribute night fishing only to catfish. However, that is not true.
Bass can easily be caught at night; bream, crappie, pike or pickerel are also on the list of night bites. Walleye are notoriously active at night as well. I personally have caught striped bass, flounder, spot, bluefish and croaker at night and I hear of offshore anglers staying out all night to fish too.
There are some tweaks to the approach to night fishing that should be made or planned for. The first one is insects. Take some insect repellent unless you have a steady breeze blowing.
Second, obviously take some lights, but shield or face them in such a way that you are not staring right into the light and ruining your night vision. Also, locate the lights far enough away that the insects that are attracted to your boat or shoreline spot are not in your face constantly.
Placing light at the edge of the boat facing downward is a great idea. You might attract fish to your boat! Headlamps are nice but not so great while night fishing and trying to tie a knot!
Third, take safety precautions. This means a PFD being worn if you are on a boat. Things happen all the time, but even more so at night. Care should also be taken when moving around and casting lines. No one wants a hook impaled in their body because you were not looking where your hooks were before you hurled your rig into the darkness.
It is a good idea to get to where you are going to fish before it gets really dark so you can set up with at least some light. Move slower and more deliberately too and you will enjoy your night fishing adventure just fine.
Tips on what baits to use when night fishing
Catfish are always up for something smelly. Since they feed using smell more than sight, night fishing is an easy prospect for them. Stink bait, live bait that moves and dead bait that is moved around will work just fine for catfish.
Bass, panfish, pike, musky, walleye and other gamefish may use sight more than smell but they can also be enticed to strike at night. Some of the most fun bass fishing I have ever had was with a surface lure at night. I love to use an old Jitterbug lure.
The Jitterbug gurgles and splashes its way across the surface at night and the explosion when a fish hits it is unmistakable. Other surface lures that make noise such as Poppers and lures with propellers are great choices.
Jigs or lures with rattles built in are also great choices to use. Lures that emit sounds give predators something to key in on.
Live bait is also a great choice because live bait moves and movement draws attention even when things are murky or dark. So, live minnows or baitfish, frogs, crayfish and other live creatures are good bets.
If using dead bait such as squid, simply move the bait around. Hop it up and down to make a disturbance on the bottom or use a popping cork if floating bait to make noise. A small splash is not a bad thing either.
Where to fish
It goes without saying that you have to be where the fish are. That said, many fish frequent the shallows where it is easier to key in on prey. The sun is gone and the fish feel safer when it is hard to see them. It always amazes me when I turn on a spotlight in the shallows of a river or lake and see so many large fish cruising the waters less than four feet deep.
So, toss your lure towards the shoreline and work it through the shallows. If you are using bait, do the same thing. Even catfish will often head to the shallows to go hunting for food.
One thing about night fishing, you will beat the heat of the day, you won’t need sunscreen and any fish you catch at night will feel much bigger that you might expect. It is exciting to have something on your line at night. The fun really cannot be beat. Just be sure to take some insect repellent and be safe out there!