Night fishing for Muskie: Tips to Catch Big Fish

Updated on:

Night fishing for Muskie: Tips to Catch Big Fish

Updated on:

Night fishing for muskies can be very productive on certain waters and is often overlooked or not taken advantage of by many anglers.

Muskie are a tough fish to catch in normal times, but on occasion being on the water after dark tips the odds in your favour.

Read on to find out why.

Nighttime Muskie Fishing FAQs

Can You Catch Big Muskie at Night?

Yes, Sometimes the best time to fish for trophy musky on a particular lake is at night.
Many of the best night fishing lakes in my experience are trophy-class lakes with moderate to very clear and deep water, and those that receive very high amounts of recreational boat traffic during the summer, and high fishing pressure.
The lakes listed above aren’t the only places where you can find a good lake for nighttime muskie fishing, and some shallower stained bodies of water like flowages and rivers can be great as well.

Where Can You Find Muskie at Night?

If you’re fishing a favorite lake and you have a GPS unit, chances are you have weed lines, points, humps, and drop-offs already mapped with waypoints, and these spots can be great after dark as well. 
If it’s a new lake you are fishing in, it’s best to leave several hours before sunset to map any promising areas and to learn about the lake.

Weedy Areas

Areas with vegetation are great, we as musky anglers fish areas like weed edges, weed-covered humps, and points, or in close proximity to them more than anything else, and that’s especially true in the summer.

These same areas are great for night fishing as well, but you might find that if the fish aren’t holding tight to the weed edges like they are in the summer, it’s most likely that they have bumped out farther from them in deeper and open water.

Ticking weeds with big bucktails and other lures like crankbaits have proven to be very effective at triggering muskies to eat after dark, so contacting vegetation while still keeping your lures clean of weeds is a great tactic.

Weedy areas that end on drop-offs and lead directly to deep are prime areas for musky fishing at any time.

Drop-Offs

Like with weedy areas, drop-offs will always have muskies near them and are great areas when night fishing for muskie.

Many lakes might have a lack of vegetation, and in this case, drop-offs are a great area to search, and if they do have vegetation on the drop-off itself, you have a deadly combination.

Rocky Humps

Rocky humps can be productive at times, and it never hurts to search them, particularly in deep and clear water with fish like ciscoes and whitefish, and if there are any clumps of cabbage scattered on them they should definitely be fished.

Shallow Bays

I personally do not spend much time in shallow bays, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ever fish present there after dark.

If it’s close to deep water it might not be a bad idea to go through the area with a topwater bait.

With that being said, I have seen muskies in very shallow water after dark with a spotlight cruising in the shallows.

How to Fish for Musky at Night?

In order to successfully catch musky at night, you need to prepare and bring certain pieces of gear and target weedy areas, drop-offs, humps, and shallow bays.

Fishing from a boat after dark is a very different situation from fishing during the day. 

It goes without saying that you’re going to have no visibility unless there is a bright moon, or you are fishing in an urban area. 

For this reason, you are going to need to prepare and bring certain pieces of gear, as well as take certain precautions

Headlamps and lights like battery-operated lanterns and flashlights are a must in order to do things like change lures, tie fishing lines, and see in your boat. 

Your boat should be free of any and all clutter from gear like rods and lures, especially on the deck, as at night it’s easy to trip over these items and fall in the boat or go for a swim. 

Safe Navigation is also critical, and you should have intimate knowledge of the body of water you are fishing on, or else you could hit a rock bar or encounter other treacherous water hazards.

Best Lures for Muskie Fishing at Night?

The two main lures types that most musky anglers use after dark are topwater lures and bucktails

The reasoning behind these two lure choices is simple, topwater make a ton of noise on the surface and are easy to track, and topwater lures like creepers can be worked at a crawl and have the loud “bloop” noise

Prop style topwater lures work well too and throw a lot of water around while creating vibration and noise and can be worked at a variety of speeds. 

Bucktails come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them work, but many anglers prefer double-10 style bucktails or bucktails with large single colorado blades. 

The double-10 bucktails move a ton of water when being retrieved which results in tons of vibration, their large tinsel skirt profile makes a large silhouette in the water, and they can be worked at slow speeds with minimal sinking. 

Other lures like large crankbaits and even big rubber baits like magnum and pounder bulldawgs can work as well, so don’t be afraid to experiment when out on the water.

Dark colors are almost always the best choice, and I and many anglers typically throw all black or mostly black lures to silhouette the best in the low light conditions.

Other darker colors like purple and blue have also shown to work great on clear lakes where underwater visibility is a little higher,

What Gear Do I Need for Muskie Fishing at Night?

Headlamps and lights like battery-operated lanterns and flashlights are a must in order to do things like change lures, tie fishing lines, and see in your boat. 

There is gear that is essential that you bring with you when nighttime muskie fishing.

Headlamps

Headlamps and lights like battery-operated lanterns and flashlights (such as this model) are a must in order to do things like change lures, tie fishing lines, and see in your boat.

Be sure to only use them when needed, and don’t fish with your headlamp on, as the light might scare away any following muskies.

Long-Nose Pliers

Long-nose pliers are a mandatory requirement for musky fishing any time day or night.

It would be wise to have a couple of different types, including a standard length 8-inch pliers (try these ones), and a much longer one with more reach for deeply hooked fish.

Another mandatory tool in this department is a pair of hook cutters, and all serious musky anglers will have these in their boat, so if you don’t get one you should.

Knipex hook cutters  are what most musky anglers prefer and easily cut hooks that would otherwise seriously injure or kill a fish if they are yanked out with pliers.

Armored Gloves

While not mandatory many anglers use a pair of armored gloves to protect their hands from the sharp gill raker teeth that are present in muskies, and this is particularly a good idea if you aren’t experienced in handling them.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is always a great idea to keep in the boat, and at the minimum large band-aids are a must.

When night fishing the potential for something to go wrong, and for someone to get injured is much higher than during daytime fishing.

More Night Fishing Considerations and Tactics

Everything is Different at Night 

Fishing from a boat after dark is a very different situation from fishing during the day. 

It goes without saying that you’re going to have little to no visibility unless there is a bright moon, or you are fishing in an urban area. 

For this reason, you are going to need to prepare and bring certain pieces of gear, as well as take certain precautions.

Headlamps and lights like battery-operated lanterns and flashlights are a must in order to do things like change lures, tie fishing lines, and see in your boat. 

Your boat should be free of any and all clutter from gear like rods and lures, especially on the deck, as at night it’s easy to trip over these items and fall in the boat or go for a swim, and in a worst-case scenario end up with a giant musky hook inside your foot, legs, butt, hand, you name it. 

Safe Navigation is also critical, and you should have intimate knowledge of the body of water you are fishing on, or else you could hit a rock bar or encounter other treacherous water hazards. 

Good Electronics Are almost a Must-have

If you have a GPS unit, chances are you have weed lines, points, humps, and drop-offs already mapped with waypoints. 

To really be effective on the water, good electronics are a must when muskie fishing at night. 

Night fishing like fishing muskies during the day needs to be done with precision boat control and casting if you’re fishing properly. 

Boat control can be tricky during the day spending on the layout of the lake, now imaging doing it when it’s pitch black outside. 

If you fishing a favorite lake and you have a GPS unit, chances are you have weed lines, points, humps, and drop-offs already mapped with waypoints. 

If it’s a new lake you are fishing in, it’s best to leave several hours before sunset to map any promising areas and to learn about the lake. 

You will also find suspended fish with down imaging in deep water, and these are areas you will certainly want to fish, as muskies will likely be in close proximity to schools of crappie, whitefish, or other baitfish.

Slow Down at Night 

Not only should you drive slow and cautiously when going from spot to spot after dark, but you also want to slow down when fishing. 

Musky angling during the daytime consists of fast-moving baits in many cases and covering water quickly to contact as many active fish as possible. 

At night fish have a hard time finding your bait and rely exclusively on their lateral line to hone in a bait, only seeing it when they are very close. 

While this feeding activity isn’t any different than during the day, it’s easier for fish to see a silhouette, and thus track it in brighter conditions. At night, they can lose track of your lure far easier. 

Due to it being dark out you will want to slow your retrieves down significantly and throw low and easy-to-track baits in most cases. 

While musky anglers who do fish at night have preferred lure choices, and we will discuss lures next, it’s important to note that any lure that works during the day will also work at night.

Final thoughts on Musky Fishing At Night

Musky fishing at night can really give you an edge on what is otherwise a tough lake to fish.

Boating traffic is essentially non-existent at night, and night fishing can be a great option on heavy traffic lakes during the weekend.

If you are unsure if the muskie waters near you are good at night, there’s only one way to find out, get out after dark and fish!

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AUTHOR
Shawn Chapin is an experienced fishing writer and guide based in Wisconsin, where he loves targeting muskie and a range of other species.