Want to switch up your angling routine? Consider night fishing. Night fishing offers tons of advantages. For starters, you can take a break from the sweltering heat and the harmful rays of the sun, even eliminating the need for sunscreen. Night fishing also offers a nice and peaceful evening without other boaters to dodge or avoid. But most importantly, when you go fishing at night, those largemouth bass, catfish and trout are moving a little slower, making it easier to entice. If you like the idea of sitting back in your boat under the light of a full moon, then this fishing technique is perfect for you. So pack your rod and reel — and a personal cooler with some energy-giving snacks to help you stay awake! — and hit the waters. But before you do, here are eight things to know before you go night fishing.
#1 Bring Headlamps and Flashlights
It’s important to keep lighting to a minimum when night fishing, but you still need to make your way around the vessel. Instead of setting up large, bright lights, use an LED headlamp. A headlamp offers an easier experience, allowing you to cast a line or place bait on without having to do so one-handedly. Most headlamps even come with several light modes, one being a red light that is safer for your vision and not so suspicious to fish.
While many boats are required to have navigational lights on at night, it’s not always required for smaller vessels. Instead, you can get away with a high-powered tactical flashlight, shining it at approaching boaters to let them know you are present. Still, you should always have your bow and stern lights on! Your best solution? Get yourself a water-resistant rechargeable flashlight that can be used over and over again.
#2 You Need Intuition
With less visibility, you will need to rely on your intuition. Instead of watching the line, feel your tackle. With your vision impaired, use your other senses — sound and touch, specifically — to catch the big one. It also helps to use a more sensitive rod and line and to use a heavier tackle.
#3 Head Out on a Clear Night with a Full Moon
To make the transition easier, beginner night anglers would be wise to schedule a trip on a full moon. With a bright, full moon, the waters will be lit up and everything will be much easier to see. While you’re at it, make sure your first night fishing trip is on a clear night without any overcast or fog.
#4 Lights Attract Smaller Fish (and Their Predators)
One well-known practice among night anglers is to aim for docks, piers, bridges and other structures that tend to be lit at night. These consistently lit areas attract smaller bait fish, which in turn attract larger predator fish — and that’s where you want to be! While this trick might not work around freshwater, saltwater anglers find this to be a fruitful method.
#5 Rig Your Rods Ahead of Time
Make sure to rig your rods ahead of time. This way, you can avoid stumbling and fidgeting around in the dark for lures or baits. If you get a bad backlash, you can simply reach for another already-prepared, spare rod. When it comes to rigging, choose a spinning gear. Unlike daylight hours, you can use a spinning gear when you don’t need precise casting.
#6 Know the Local Waters
Get to know the waters you’ll be heading out on at night. Take the boat out during the day and use your GPS to navigate around, determining where there are obstacles and obstructions under the surface. Of course, you should also be aware of obstacles like sandbars and floating debris, too. If you need to, sketch out a map of that portion of the waters and learn it by heart. As a general rule, you should drive your vessel slower at night as well, being safe but also courteous to fellow anglers who might be out, too.
#7 Be Stealthy
Fishing requires a certain covertness. However, at night, this is especially true. Every sound you make is amplified beneath the quiet, calm waters, which will ultimately scare away the fish. If using a motorboat, avoid plunging the motor into the waters, dropping it gracefully instead. The same goes with anything else, such as an anchor. If you find a glory hole with lots of fish, turn the motor off and drift closer, keeping your movements as stealth as possible.
#8 Boating Safety
It’s imperative to know basic boating safety any time you’re out on the water. However, when night fishing, your knowledge of safe practices is even more critical. As you land fish and unhook them in the dark, be sure to take a seat in the boat. The last thing you want is to fall overboard at night. In fact, you should try to stay seated at all times to avoid losing your balance. Boating at night means less visibility. If you happen to bump into an obstacle in the water, it could send you overboard.
Keeping a well-organized and clean boat can also prevent a mishap. Make sure your boat’s floor is picked up and that things like ropes or other objects that could trip you are stored away. Lures and hooks especially could be painful to step on!
Ready to try your hand at a little night fishing? Go with a group of friends or buddies. Safety in numbers is always a good piece of advice, especially when navigating dark waters. Fishing with friends is also more fun, letting each other show off what they caught while sharing a cup of coffee or a beer. Just remember to drink responsibly and keep your wits about you.