There are a number of advantages to fishing after the sun goes down. When the sweltering heat of summer makes it nearly unbearable to fish in the daytime, night fishing is the perfect alternative that can lead to success.
This article details some of our favorite night fishing tips that will help you catch more fish under the cover of darkness.
Our Best Night Fishing Tips
There are a few similarities between fishing in the daytime and fishing at night. However, you can maximize your efforts by following these important tips for catching big fish by the moonlight.
Don’t wait until it is dark
The most important thing to remember about night fishing is that you won’t be able to rely on your sense of vision in the same way you can during the daylight hours. This means you’ll need to plan accordingly and develop your fishing strategy before you ever hit the water.
Trying to launch your boat at night is an unnecessary difficulty that can also be dangerous. It’s much safer if you’re already on the water near your fishing spot once it gets dark as this means you won’t have to navigate your way around the lake at night.
It’s also best to arrive at the lake a few hours before dusk so you can cruise around and identify some promising fishing spots with your GPS or with a map so you can revisit them after sundown.
Take the right gear
Light is your most important resource when fishing at night. Be sure to make a detailed list of specific gear items you’ll need to bring along when you’re night fishing. Things like a headlamp, lantern, and flashlights (see our top 10 waterproof flashlights) are absolutely essential for night fishing since you’ll be forced to rely on them to see your surroundings, as well as what’s in the water.
You don’t want to be fumbling around with your cell phone and trying to use it as a light source. By packing plenty of LED lights, proper fishing equipment and safety gear, you’ll be well-prepared for success.
A first aid kit is another must-have item that anglers should always keep in their boat or tackle box. You can also improve your chances of catching fish by bringing along a submersible or floating fishing light that will help attract fish at the water’s surface.
Keep it simple
It’s acceptable to have a few rod selections laid out on your boat during the daytime as you can simply reach down and swap them out as needed. However, when it’s dark outside, you don’t want to have multiple rods sitting around on your boat deck.
Be sure to keep the surface of your boat clear of gear and equipment, especially in areas where you’ll be stepping. Also, don’t try to over-complicate things by bringing too many fishing rods. Stick with simple lure presentations because any fish species you’re after at night will be relying on their other senses such as touch or smell instead of sight.
Catching fish at night
Finding out where fish like to hang out at night is vastly different than it is during the day. It’s important that you have a basic understanding of the fish species you’re going after and what their behavior is like at night.
Largemouth bass generally like to venture into shallow waters at night and often prefer areas with hard-bottom feeding areas that are near deep water. Rocky banks near boat docks are a perfect set up for bass fishing at night.
It’s also good to use any light sources you have around the lake to your advantage. Some docks will have lights installed near them, which act as the perfect fish attractant when it’s dark or in low light conditions.
Most predatory fish will hunt for their prey in the shallows when it’s dark and your best chance of catching anything at night is to fish in water that’s less than 10 feet deep. This is true for both fresh water and salt water fish.
Experienced anglers will use advanced tactics and gear at night to maximize their chances of success. Black lights, fluorescent lines, and the right kind of lure is often a solid way to keep track of your line without having to strain to see your rod tip in the dark or keep your headlamp on all the time.
If you do fish with fluorescent lines, you can use a black light to make it easier to watch the line. This is more common for anglers who are using cut bait or live bait fish when night fishing.
Make your night fishing trip a safe one
Safety is key when fishing at night, so be sure to bring plenty of lights so you won’t have to contend with the darkness when tying on a lure, navigating the boat, or trying to land a fish.
I always wear a headlamp when night fishing as it allows me to quickly turn it on and see anything in front of me. Be sure to bring along a backup headlamp and plenty of batteries in case your primary one goes out.
Keep each of your rod and reels secured in your boat so that you won’t stumble over it or break your equipment. You should also keep your tackle box or bag closed and secured at all times in order to avoid knocking anything over or into the water.
It’s often best to plan your night fishing trip around the time of a full moon as this will allow you to have as much light as possible when you’re on the water. Fish also tend to be more active when it’s a full moon and will usually go after certain topwater lures and other options more than they will when it’s pitch black.
Species to target at night
Bass like to stay in deep water when it’s extremely hot outside. Once it gets dark, they will move up into the shallows and hunt for bait fish or anything else they can feed on. The best places to catch bass at night will be shallow water near the shore that’s very close to deep water.
Look for any type of significant depth changes or transitions such as ledges, creek channels, ditches, knolls and drop-offs as these provide bass with the perfect ambush site for targeting unsuspecting prey.
Be sure to use a lure that makes noise or vibration since bass will be relying on their sense of touch and smell more than their ability to see their prey. This also means that finesse lures and rigs are virtually useless at night.
See this article for more on bass fishing at night.
Crappie love to stay near light sources in the water, so keep an eye out for dock lights, or bring your own floating light to increase your chances of success. These light sources attract plankton and other tiny species that are a favorite menu item for crappie.
You can catch crappie at night by focusing on fishing around banks. In many cases, crappie like to stay close to docks, bridges, piers and other structures after sundown. They also like to congregate around deepwater brush piles and points, as well as creek channels.
You can successfully catch crappie using minnows at night, but don’t be shy about throwing a variety of different jigs and other crappie lures in the water to find out what they’re biting on that particular night.
Try fishing multiple rods at different depths to get a decent gauge of where the fish are on any given night. Once you figure out which depth you’re catching more fish at, you can set all your rods to this level and maximize your chances at getting a bite.
Many anglers are able to catch walleye at night during the late summer and fall seasons. Walleye like to feed on certain types of bait fish that spawn during the fall in the shallows.
Look for areas of a lake that have more current than others for better walleye fishing at night. Most of the baitfish that are spawning during the fall will be in shallow water that’s very close to deep water—much like largemouth bass at night.
Be sure to work your way around shorelines or areas with shallow sand or rock piles that are far away from the shore. Stay with a simple assortment of lures when night fishing for walleye such as jerkbaits, jigs and other lures that are good for catching these fish.
See our article on walleye fishing at night.
The best lures and baits for night fishing
List types of lures that work well at night and an example of one product in each lure category
For most types of fish, it’s better to use lures and baits that appeal to the fish’s senses like smell or feel. Largemouth will rely on these senses the most, but walleye and crappie might still use their sense of visual acuity to locate prey.
Buzzbaits are especially effective at night since they are some of the noisiest lures available. My personal favorite is a black Strike King Premier Plus Double Take that I like to throw around shallow water at night.
If it’s a bit windy at night, try throwing a heavy spinnerbait that’s made with Colorado blades. These blades make more vibration when running through the water and will work better when it comes to fishing at night. Two spinnerbaits that I always have in my tackle box for a night fishing trip are the Strike King KVD Night spinnerbait and the Booyah Moontalker.
Another one of our favorite night fishing tips is to use larger bait options for bass. Fishing with a large, heavy jig, longer plastic worm or craw, as well as bigger bladed swimjigs (chatterbaits) at always better at night because you’ll be putting off more vibration and noise in the water.
I like to use a Z-Man Fishing Project Z Football jig with a black and blue skirt for fishing around docks and weeded areas. The Z-Man Project Z Weedless chatterbait is also an outstanding choice that should be worked slowly for the best results.
Final Thoughts on Night Fishing Successfully
Most professional anglers and guides will agree that nighttime fishing is truly unlike any other. During the summer, fishing at night is a great strategy for catching giant bass, slab crappie, muskie and trophy-sized walleye.
Be sure to plan accordingly if you’re going to fish at night and have plenty of lights and batteries. With no pleasure-boaters on the water at night and you’ll also have less numbers of other boats to contend with the for the best spots.
Be sure to use these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a successful night fishing venture this summer.