Successful Angler Puts Safety First At Night
Like Tai, take it easy.
Tai puts safety in first place at night. “You absolutely must have a spotlight at night,” says Au, “but Arizona law says you can’t drive with it constantly on. What I do is barely get the boat on plane, take it slow, and use that spotlight intermittently to make sure where I am.” Knowing what marker buoys mean is crucial – the buoys with vertical stripes mean “don’t go between here and shore”. A diamond on a buoy is marking a hazard like a submerged rock, a square contains information, while a circle is a control buoy such as no ski or no wake. A diamond with a cross in it means keep out.
By law you must keep your navigation lights on from sunset to sunrise. If you’re nervous about driving the boat at night you can put in and stay near the ramp, just using the trolling motor and staying near shore. Ramps are usually lit, so you won’t be in total darkness, and you’ll still get the benefits of night fishing until you feel more comfortable on the water at night.
Where To Fish
Any area near deep water is a good place to fish at night. This can mean main points, secondary points, humps out away from shore, even the sides of coves near big channels. Tai says he has the most success on main lake areas like humps and points. Marinas are also great places to fish, especially on nights with little or no moon. Marinas are usually lit, and those lights attract insects which attract baitfish. Marinas aren’t the only places with light at night – Tai also fishes near ramps and around bridges and any other structures with light.
Just Required Nav Lights
Although he likes to fish around lights, he doesn’t use any on his boat while he’s fishing – no black lights, no fluorescent line, no floating lights – nothing but the required nav lights. He feels that black lights and such are unnatural. The moon doesn’t affect his fishing much, he says, other than influencing the colors he chooses. He would prefer three days or so before or after a full moon rather than on the full moon itself.
Since he doesn’t use lights or fluorescent line, Tai has become a line feeler instead of a line watcher. He keeps his finger on the line at all times so he can feel the bites – sometimes the lure just goes weightless, but either way you can feel it. Although he says he’s usually not a big scent guy, at night he’s diligent about it – his favorites are Garlic Bang, Mega Strike, and Smelly Jelly, and he’ll soak his plastics in bags with scent.
Even at night, very warm water is hard on fish. They may just be making short forays to shallow water for food, and if you put them in a hot livewell they can get very stressed. Tai freezes water bottles and keeps a frozen one in the livewell, replacing it when necessary. He also keeps the recirculation on at all times. He buys a block of ice as well as a bag of cubes – the block will help the cubes stay frozen so you can surround your frozen bottles with cubes and they last longer.
Learn To Fizz Fish
You don’t want to do much more than lower the water temperature about five degrees or so, he says, or you’ll shock them, but making the water a bit cooler and keeping the air going through all the time really helps. He says you also need to learn to fizz fish – sometimes it is necessary because if the fish has just come up, it might not yet be fully acclimated. Also, if a fish is alive but floating upside down, use a fin weight to keep him upright or he’ll suffocate.
More Night Fishing Tips
- Nav lights attract insects, and if you’re the non-boater, it can get brutal back there by the white light. Be sure to use insect repellent, but be vigilant to keep it off your baits – it can repel fish, too.
- Drink lots of water. Just because the sun isn’t out doesn’t mean you can’t get dehydrated.
- Wear your life jacket. If the vest feels too hot, invest in the suspender type that inflates in the water.
- Bring a jump-start power pack along at night – constant use of the trolling motor, nav lights, graph, livewells, and spotlight can drain your batteries.
- A light that fixes to the brim of your cap or straps onto your head really comes in handy when you have to re-tie at night, and a red light won’t affect your night vision like a white light will.
- Organize your tackle before you go.
- Keep an airhorn in your boat. You would be amazed at the way people drive boats at night sometimes, and if they don’t seem to be noticing your lights, give a toot on the horn to let them know they’re headed your way.
- If you wear loose, cotton, long-sleeved shirts you will feel cooler if there is a nice breeze.
- Summer storms can come up quickly at night, and you may not notice that there are clouds. A NOAA radio is good to keep onboard to warn you if a storm is headed your way. Lightning and high winds are no fun at night on the water. You can also download an app to your smartphone that will warn you of severe weather. NOAA makes one, but there are several others as well. Just remember to keep the sound on and make sure you have notifications enabled.
- It’s easy to lose your balance at night – a wake or a wave you can’t see coming could rock the boat, so when you’re unbuttoning a fish, kneel down or get in a stable position so you don’t risk falling overboard.
- Don’t leave things out on the deck that you could trip over.
- Be quiet. Things are just naturally more quiet at night, and if you make a lot of noise you’ll stand out.
- Like Tai, take it easy at night. There’s no need to run full out in the dark. So take it easy – drive slow, fish slow.