There are few angling experiences that hold the mystery and magical pull of fishing under lights. A well-placed light has the ability to concentrate baitfish and provide an unnaturally alluring ambush spot for predator fish and anglers alike. Although there are no guarantees in any type of fishing, the draw of a well-lit coastal channel or flat just feels fishy, and by employing a few time-tested techniques, you might find that sleep is very overrated.
Fish it Like a Pond
One of the best parts of fishing a small stock pond is that you can concentrate on limited angling space and fully explore the little water you have. Night fishing has some of the same elements. Depending on the number of lights you have access to, you need to fully understand the structure, depth and distinguishing features of the water you are fishing. If possible, spend a moment in the daylight to scope the area. Probe for depth and if you can, try to get a feel for the bay bottom contour and any structure that may be within the reach of the lights. Use this insight to target key ambush areas for predators and try to pattern your retrieves to mirror those of surprised prey. Also, remember to fish the edges of the light. That is the natural ambush area and is generally going to draw the most action.
The bite under lights can be maddeningly finicky based on water clarity and often the size of the bait species that the lights aggregate. Make sure you pack an assortment of small baits that simulate a newly hatched shad, glass minnow or shrimp. Spend some time in your local tackle store or online looking at small, light-tackle baits, and don’t be afraid to stroll down the freshwater panfish aisle. Baits intended for use in pursuing bluegill and small bass can be deadly effective on serious saltwater gamefish in the right conditions.
Stick It Out
Due to the limitations of lighting, night fishing can seem somewhat monotonous if the bite if off. With all of the natural sights of the bay stripped away, it is amazing how quickly standing on the bay in the dark can become as appealing as standing in a closet, but don’t give up too quickly. The bite under lights is notorious for testing the night owl in you, and the action can turn on inexplicably. Although a lot of the normal rules of tide and moon apply, remember that the lights often take quite a bit of time to aggregate nearby bait species and the bite regularly tracks that sleepless pattern.