As the sun begins to set, fish will begin to move inshore to feed, safe in the knowledge that the blanket of nightfall offers them some protection from predators. As an angler, fishing at night can increase our chances of having success, largely because the fish are closer to shore and are feeding.

However, fishing at night is not without its own set of problems. Sitting on a dark barely lit stretch of isolated beach can be an unnerving experience, and they aren’t without their own dangers, especially in remote or unfamiliar locations.

Most anglers will tend to band together on such nights, even to the point that some locations are crowded with fishermen, especially on the most industrious evenings. So, if you’re worried about fishing at night, there should be plenty of locations where you can fish in the company of other like-minded individuals, including well-illuminated piers and promenades.

But if you prefer your own company and you’re not worried by the dark and isolation, then there are many locations you can cast out your baited hook for some monster fish. But, I would still recommend fishing with a friend for safeties sake, especially if you’re heading to more dangerous shorelines.
Angling during the night time is most productive between 8 pm and 3 am, especially if high tide hits at around 12 am.

Saltwater Night Fishing Tips

Clear and calm nights are better for night time fishing compared to windy rough seas. This is predominantly because fish are able to feed closer shore when the seas are rougher, so there’s a less of a need to do so in twilight hours as well.

In calm, clear waters, fish will be active once the sun has completely set, if the moon is out this can be off-putting to fish, preventing them from moving into shallower waters.

To maximize our chances of success, we’re looking for nights that are cool, crisp, calm and with the tides working in our favor. We’ve had great success during frosty winter evenings when every other sensible person is wrapped up in bed, but this is the time to maximize our fishing success.

Choose The Right Location

Before heading out to a fishing location during the night, you must check it out during the daytime. Take a look when the tide is out so you can get a good idea of what the seabed looks like and where any potential hazards are located.

Doing this not only allows you to avoid snags and hazards, but you’ll be able to see the casting distance to interesting features such as sandbars, weed beds and rocks. Additionally, you’ll be able to see how you can get to your fishing location safely and what you should look out for when the visibility is poor.

Fishing a location during daylight hours can be dangerous, doing so in the dark when you’re unfamiliar with the landscape is doubly so. Know where your exits are, where any cliffs or rock formations are located and make sure your fishing spot won’t be threatened by large waves or the swell.

It’s a good idea to choose a location which has a shorter distance between the low and high water marks. This will allow you to set everything up and not have to continuously move as the tide comes in or goes out. You want to keep your movement to a minimum when visibility is poor.

The location you choose when night fishing can have a huge impact on your likelihood of success, so pick your site with care. Remember which way the tides are going and reference your daytime reccy when deciding on a spot. Keep in mind that the tides ebb and flow will go in opposite directions depending on whether the tide is coming in or going out.

Setup your base camp above the high tide mark. You’ll be able to tell where to high tide normally reaches by the previous tide lines or the debris deposited on the beach. Just bear in mind that spring tides tend to push further up the beach, this can be emphasized if there’s a strong onshore wind.
It’s a good idea to have some sort of shelter at your base of operation, this can be a purpose made tent or even an umbrella. This helps keep tackle and bait dry and can be a pleasant retreat from the wind and cold if required.

Set Everything Up From the Start

Taking to the time to set up an organized central base when fishing, especially when it’s from the beach, can save a lot of headache and time later on. Making sure the vital and essential pieces of gear are near at hand can make your life much easier.

Take special care with live bait. Many live baits are susceptible to cold weather, wind, rain and colder temperatures can quickly kill baits such as worms. Make sure the bait is stored in an out of the way location, you don’t want to be standing on a Tupperware box by accident.

It’s a good idea to have a few different kinds of rigs set up before you head out fishing, you can even pre-bait them to make your life easier. When its dark and possibly cold, the last thing you want to be doing is setting up a fiddly and intricate rig. Many rod rests have bars and clips that are specially made for holding unused rigs.

Having a spare reel to hand is must have, untangling line or snags during daylight hours is hard enough, when its dark it’s a near impossible task. Swapping the reel out for another one is much easier and will maximize the time you have your bait in the water and therefore increases the chances of landing a fish.
The same goes for many of the small yet essential pieces of gear you have in your tackle box. In the dark stuff seems to just vanish, only to be discovered again when the sun has risen. Having duplicates of your must-have items such as knives, scissors and pliers can make your life much easier if something is misplaced on a rock somewhere.

Illuminate Your Surroundings

A fuel-powered lamp can be a great source of light as well as heat, the problem is they can be dangerous and fiddly to operate. If you plan on using one, make sure you know how to do so safely and ensure it’s located in an out of the way location where it’s unlikely to be knocked over. A lamp pole is a great investment as you can adjust the height of the lamp and keep it well clear of your feet and casting.

If you’re uncomfortable with fuel lamps, headlamps are another great option. LEDs have come a long way in recent years and are perfectly capable of replacing traditional light bulbs, they are also very energy efficient, which means you can get many hours of lighting out of a single set of batteries.
Another advantage of headlamps is that your hand are free to get on with the actual fishing.

Practice in the Daytime

It can be a challenge to accurately cast when it’s dark, even for experienced anglers. Not only do you not know where your bait has landed, but knowing where to cast is difficult. It’s a great idea to practice casting in the same location during the daylight hours, you can then use that knowledge to cast accurately when it’s dark.

You can also employ a fixed spool reel to ensure you don’t overcast or alternatively use the magnetic brake controls on your multiplier reel to limit your casting distance.

When it’s dark, fish are generally feeding much closer to shore, so there’s very little reason to cast out beyond the horizon.

Taking a few minutes to familiarise yourself with daytime casting can save you a lot of headaches once the sun has set.

Spotting a Bite

The lack of light can make spotting a bite challenging. However, there are a couple of easy solutions. Simply adding a fishing glow stick to the end of the rod make spotting a bite a piece of cake, they come in packs of 10 or more and a single tip can last a whole night of fishing. Alternatively, you can wrap the tip of your rod in some reflective tape or simply paint it white with a spot of Tippex. Problem sorted!

Just make sure your rod tip is within your line of sight, you don’t want to be continually looking up at it, not only is this uncomfortable but it can cause neck cramps after a while.

For a high tech solution, consider a rod alarm. These can be as simple as a bell placed on the line, or an electronic device that detects movements in the line and signals an alarm if a bite is detected.

Keep Warm and Alert

Having a great nights sleep the previous evening is the best way to avoid your night time fishing trip from being miserable, this helps you stay warm and alert. Avoid consuming alcohol or building a fire, as these will make you feel worse once the effects have started to wear away.

It’s been said before, but layering is a great way of keeping warm when the temperature drops at night. Lots of thinner layers are normally better than one thick layer as it’ll allow you to remove some if your too hot or add more if you’re too cold. Having a thermos of hot drinks and some food is a great way to pick yourself up if you feel yourself beginning to flag. Also, a hat is a must-have item, every fisherman should own at least one hat.

Fish Don’t Need to See Your Lure

You might not think it, and I was certainly a bit skeptical when I went night fishing with lures for the first time, but fish don’t need to see your lure to be attracted to it. Originally I thought I’d need to invest in some sort of luminescent lure, or something that was powered by batteries, but that’s not the case.
Many moons ago, when I had more hair, I had a lot to learn about fishing. I still have a lot to learn, but I know at least know that fish don’t necessarily need to see the lure to take it.

On my very first cast on my very first-night fishing excursion, I caught a fish with just a standard lure. At that time I didn’t quite understand why that was the case but the upshot was that I no longer worried about fishing at night with lures.

Many fish species are less reliant on vision to locate their prey, instead placing more emphasis on movement, sound, vibrations, and smells. I’ve proved this time and again by using small lures in the dead of night in disturbed dirty water, but still managed to catch plenty of fish. Common sense would suggest that this is incredibly difficult for the fish to do, but they time and again take my lures in these conditions.

 

So, don’t doubt the lured that you’re using, you don’t need anything fancy or glow in the dark. Any decent lure can work when saltwater night fishing.

Give Some Thought to Size and Shape of Lures

In my opinion, the action, shape, and size of a lure are far more important than almost anything else. This is doubly so when you’re fishing after the sun has set.

It’s these design aspects that give your lure it’s characteristics as it moves through the water. Fish are incredibly adept at tracking these movements and vibrations back to the source. During the twilight hours, predatory fish are highly attuned to the movements and vibrations around them as it signifies their next meal.

When picking out a lure to use, I would normally recommend trying to match it the type of baitfish you’d expect to see in the area. For example, if we’d expect to see herring in the water, I’ll choose a lipless bait or flat crank. These type of lures mimic the movement and vibrations of the bit fish very well and therefore very attractive to the predatory fish.

Color Matters, Just Make Sure It’s Black

Even though I’ve already stated that color doesn’t matter, I need to contradict myself slightly and say that black lures work very well.

Darkly colored or black lures are incredibly effective both in the daytime and during the night-time, they just work, but there is a very good reason for this as well.

All predatory fish, but specifically those that specialize in fishing at night time, are fantastic at identifying silhouettes of their prey from below. So, the stronger the silhouette produced by the lure, they greater the chances of it being taken by a fish.

You might not think it, but a dark colored lure is actually easier to see from below when compared to a lighter colored lure. The reason for this is even when it’s dark, the light produced by the moon and stars creates a bright sky, so any darkly colored objects that block out this moon and starlight are easy to spot. A lighter color of a lure is harder to distinguish from the bright sky, so it’s therefor more challenging for the fish to see it.

Avoid Glow in The Dark Lures

I’ve tried nearly every lure when fishing at night, and without a doubt, glow in the dark lures are less effective than standard lures. The only exception to this is if you’re in some seriously deep water, where you might find luminescent baitfish.

If you’re night fishing in coastal waters, you’re not going to see much natural bioluminescence, except maybe for plankton. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its place in night lures. A small amount of glow in the dark paint for eyes, or for a few spots down the side of the lure can draw attention to it. But a full lure made out of glow in the dark material just looks odd and will probably put fish off rather than attract them.

Final Thoughts

Fishing at night can be great fun, but in order to maximize your chances of success, you need to be organized. Wearing the right clothes and making sure you’re equipped with the right gear can massively increase your enjoyment. Spending a few minutes scoping out your chosen fishing spot during the daylight hours is highly recommended, it might just make the difference between success and potential disaster.

With a little bit for forward planning, you’re nearly guaranteed to catch fish on a twilight fishing trip.

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