Into the Outdoors: Night Fishing


By the time you read this, it will officially be summer. One of the many great things about summer is the abundance of warm nights. This presents the opportunity for the topic of this week’s column, which is night fishing.

While most of us tend to do the bulk of our fishing during the daylight hours, there’s lots of great action to be had at night. This week, let’s look at some of it. I have always found something attractive about it, although I no longer participate in it as much as I once did.

It must be kept in mind that all fish are light-sensitive to one degree or another. Therefore, in the middle of the day, they usually head for the deepest water they can find to escape the discomfort of bright light. Often, during these times, they are hard to find and catch.

Night fishing is an entirely different ballgame. Light is no longer a major factor. Fish will move from the depths into shallow water to actively feed on the plentiful minnows, crayfish and insects found there. This can provide a real bonanza for the angler.

The smallmouth bass, abundant in both of our area rivers, is a good night feeder. In fact, night fishing offers some of the best opportunities to hook a bronzeback on a surface lure or a fly.

Largemouth bass might be even more voracious night feeders than their cousins. With Lake Arthur within easy driving distance, a night foray for largemouths is an adventure well worth considering. The best nights are moonless and pitch dark. Downed trees, sandy beaches, and rocky points can all be hotspots. Don’t overlook boat docks, as the fish often like to lurk around them. Noisy surface lures and bass bugs are good choices for artificials, while shiners and crayfish are probably the two best live baits.

Walleyes, one of my personal favorites, are actually night feeders by nature. Over the course of a season, the night angler will usually outfish his or her daytime counterpart. Live minnows, crawler/spinner combos, spoons, and crankbaits are all deadly. If you are good at fishing with jigs, the night is a great time to put your skill to use as well. To make matters even better, the fish are often found in the “flats,” where snags are not such a big problem.

Some panfish also like to dine late. Often, we’ve caught rock bass in the Allegheny at night. Come to think of it, they ran a bit bigger, too. In the summer, many dyed-in-the-wool crappie anglers switch over almost completely to night fishing. Some use a floating light that points down into the water. The light draws insects and small aquatic life forms. They in turn draw minnows, which then draw the crappies. It’s really surprising how effective this method can be, provided you get everything working right.

Here are a few tips, some based on bitter experience, to help make night fishing more fun. First of all, take only the equipment you really believe you’ll need, and get it organized in the boat. Personally, I like to wear a vest with many pockets in it. This often allows me to fish with no tackle box at all. I just put my lures, hooks, etc. in plastic boxes and carry them in the vest. I think it’s really the way to go.

Waving a flashlight around over the water can scare the fish, so watch that. Bug repellant is an absolute must. Trust me on this. Don’t leave the dock without it. If you use a lantern, make sure you have enough accessories for it to last the night. As much as I love them, and despite the memories they evoke, I do not use the liquid fuel type of lanterns for night fishing. They are just too much trouble. Nowadays, I use either propane or a battery-powered model, accompanied by a mine-type headlight.

Above all, be careful. Make sure that your boat is equipped with the proper lights, as required by law so that other boaters can see you. Slow down, and keep alert for floating debris. Enter fishing areas carefully, being extra alert for rocks and water too shallow for the boat. A depth finder is worth its weight in gold.

Night fishing is peaceful, relaxing, and productive. Give it a try.

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