If you are not prepared or schooled on freshwater fishing, you might be the kind of angler who is in the dark even when fishing in the light of day.
Some anglers, however, prefer to fish in the actual dark – nighttime. Night fishing is not for everyone, but if you want some real solitude and cooler temps during summer months, nighttime can be the right time for the sport you love.
You just need to know some of the essentials—i.e., visual aids and safety measures—as well as what types of fish lend themselves to night angling and what types of waters are best for certain kinds of lures or baits.
Fishing at night adds an adventurous dimension to the sport. It can hike the inherent adrenalin rush found in daytime fishing up a notch, and it can just feel like a new fishing frontier in general.
Because your natural vision is obviously limited at night, especially without all the street lights, neon signs, headlights or even your porch light, darkness is the first obstacle you must hurdle.
Equipping yourself properly with lighting not only increases your catching ability, but also your safety.
Best Species for Night Fishing
Some fish lend themselves to the night bite better than others.
Trout can be caught into the night—essentially as dusk falls and into the twilight. However, they are not as easy to catch in pitch black conditions, unless a full moon or large floodlight casts rays across the water.
Therefore, spiny rays (e.g., bass, walleyes, perch, catfish) tend to be the worthiest targets in the dark.
The only exception to the rule when it comes to trout or char is when you fish far north, like aurora borealis north—late summer in the land of the midnight sun.
Ensure Your Safety in a Boat or on Shore
Your sights will probably be set on a particular lake, pond or slow-moving stream to fish at night. Simply avoid fast-moving water—swift rivers or creeks—altogether if you care not to drown or nearly drown.
- Bring a headlamp for tying knots and lures onto your line—or, ahem, for untangling your line.
- Add a larger flashlight or self-standing light to your visual arsenal for the sake of not stumbling over something or accidentally walking off a bank and into deep water if fishing from shore.
- If fishing from a boat, a light on deck to avoid the same stumbling hazard, along with running lights, prove essential for safety.
- Bring a life vest and even wear it at all times during night, whether in a boat or along a shoreline with a deep drop-off.
If you own some hook guards for your treble-hook lures, especially, attach them to your lures before leaving home.
Fossicking around the compartment of a tackle box, tray or vest pocket can prove painful to fingers when your sharp, treble hooks lay bare.
While on the topic of gear, don’t stack as much of it in the boat at night as you would during the day. This increases the stumbling, fall-out-of-the-boat quotient.
Know which lures will be best before fading into the gentle night and bring as few rigs as possible. In short, keep your deck uncluttered. You can stumble over almost anything in the heat of battle with that lunker you didn’t expect to hit the end of your line.
Be sure to carry a flare or two in your boat at night. You never know when you might be stranded and make sure your lighting in general is strong enough to detect water hazards such as bars, outcroppings, extended docks or piers and very thick weed beds.
Best Types of Freshwater for Fishing at Night
For safety reasons already mentioned, lakes and ponds are usually the wisest and actually most productive choices for night fishing.
A light from your boat or from shore helps you examine the cover or habitat of a given area of water, but take care not to shine it directly at the spot you are choosing to cast.
As much as you can, examine as much of your targeted casting water in the penumbra of your artificial light. If the moon is full, you need not use as much caution.
Beware that a bright enough light behind you can cast your shadow over the water and possibly scare your prey as well.
The smaller the lake or pond, the spookier the fish might be. Employ more stealth in these waters and always know how close the bank or shoreline is, no matter if in a boat or casting from shore.
Tips for Bass Fishing at Night
Bass can be the most exciting and ready of all fish when it comes to fishing in the dark. Depending on the type of water you choose to fish, different types of lures work best.
Clear shallow water can present a couple of fish-location dilemmas. Are they hunkered near bottom or amidst the cover of weeds and other half-in-half-out debris? Or, are they cruising clear pockets of water between the woody, rocky or weedy debris?
If the former situation presents itself, inch a plastic worm or grub with appropriate sinker weight (if any) near the bottom; default to a very slow retrieve.
Worms and grubs can be as long or short as you fish during the day. Depending on the amount of light cast upon the water, you need not worry too much about color of your lures at night (leaving all those colorful lures at home also lends to an uncluttered and safer boat deck).
Worm hooks and their sizes remain much the same as during the day (i.e., sizes 4/0 or 5/0 are perfect). Make sure your hooks host weed guards.
While retrieving, raise the worm or grub with your rod tip occasionally to lend a falling motion, which imparts a more luring action to nighttime fish.
If the water you fish poses drop-offs, sharp, steep banks or fairly clear, cruising pockets, don’t rule out surface lures.
Floating minnows, clattery Jitterbug type lures or other surface lures that pop along with a little splash, wake or noise can do well in this type of nighttime habitat.
If the night proves to be quite windy, keep a weighted spinner bait handy. In enough light—moon spun or artificial—spinners will reflect well.
Night Fishing for Catfish
Really, all you need to think about when catfishing at night are your safety items. Standing lights, awareness of drop-offs, life vest, clutter free stepping grounds and headlamp rank among the top essentials.
Catfish will go after the same scent as they do with smelly baits you use during the day.
Your advantage: Hooks, sinkers and swivels don’t appear as boldly in the water at night as during the day.
Night Fishing for Walleyes, Perch or Sunfish
Like catfish, these species will detect live bait by senses other than their sight. Nightcrawlers rule. How do you think these rangy worms got their name?
If shallow enough for light above to reflect off a spinner, you can slowly drag a worm harness and spinner near a fairly shallow bottom for walleyes (aka pike perch); emphasis on slowly.
Likewise, a small spinner can take perch or sunfish when bait is working. Or tip a grub with a bit of worm.
Again color is not much of a concern unless the full moon shines extra-bold. That said, if one color is not working, try some others, just as you would with bass.
Though it is best to keep your tackle to a minimum for avoidance of hazardous clutter, experiment with approaches and lures or baits as much as you can during night.
It is indeed a frontier. It won’t hurt to break some of the norms and learn a new effective method to culling fish from the deepness of dark. Just don’t let any experimentations get in the way of safety at night.