Anglers can find a variety of fish species, including crappie, largemouth bass, and walleye. Night fishing is a great way to catch them. Most fishermen cast their last casts just after sunset and then return their boats to the launch.
This is a huge mistake!
At night, big bass comes in close.
Although not all species are active at night, they tend to be more aggressive, less cautious, and easier to catch.
Are you interested in night fishing?
Continue reading to learn our top night fishing tips and tricks that will increase your chances of success while night fishing!
Why bother fishing at night?
Many things occur as the sun sinks below the horizon, and the long shadows turn to full darkness.
The first and most obvious is the drop in light levels. For walleye and muskie, this gives them a distinct hunting advantage, particularly if there is just a little moonlight. Largemouth bass species, such as largemouth bass, are hypersensitive to light and hunt by tuning in on vibration.
Walleyes are active hunters by starlight and moonlight.
Bernie Barringer, a serious angler, will tell you that only the big ones, the heart-stopping beasts, come out to fish when the sun is down. My biggest muskie was 53 inches in length and as wide as a birch tree log. It was caught two hours after it got dark. This is not a common story. Ask any serious muskie angler and they will tell you a similar tale. The night shift is where the big fish are.
Joe Bucher is a professional muskie guide. “Muskies tend to run larger after dark, in general. Without the need for caution during daylight hours, the largest fish in our system are 100% active in darkness. They can take advantage of the darkness to catch prey. They push smaller fish away from their spots when the bigger, more dominant fish are active.
Second, water temperatures drop allowing heat-pressured fish to leave the depths to get to work. This holds for smaller predators such as perch, bluegill, and shad but is even more so for large predators like largemouth basses.
Steve Quinn explains that “big bass” move inshore, feeding along the edges of summer. This is the same pattern John Hope detailed in his track work with big bass. These are the large fish you can catch at night during summer.
Big muskie hunt in dark waters.
They have more space to swim and more energy for hunting, so they are more inclined to eat just like most anglers.
Third, experienced guides will tell you that big, cautious fish that are alert during the day will be more careless at night. They will move back into shallows to feed and become less wary. Bucher says that the “big ones” will slip over open water in daylight, especially when there is fishing pressure and boat traffic. After nightfall, they slip again on structures. Even big fish that can be seen in shallow waters during daylight are still cautious. After sunset, this caution disappears.
The fishing pressure will drop like a brick and night anglers who are skilled at night fishing will often have the lake all to themselves.
Night Fishing 101: Tips & Tricks for Fishing in Darkness
Night fishing presents unique challenges. From more chances to take a spill to sharp hooks you can’t see, it is a little riskier than day angling.
Here are our top tips for fishing at night.
The dark is something that only children fear, right?
We have an inherent fear of the dark because we cannot see dangers in low or no light. The danger of injury is multiplied when you have rods and other hazards on board.
This is not a joke at night!
Keep your boat’s deck as clean as possible. Reduce the number of rods that you have, limit the size of your tackle bags, and only bring a handful of essentials. Fish can be caught sitting down or kneeling.
Night fishing with friends is a great way to meet new people.
Learn how to see the water through the light
Fish that are large enough to hold on for the day will eventually move to shallower waters at night and become less cautious and more aggressive.
It is better to look with your eyes rather than with your hull.
Unfortunately, too many anglers find out the hard way that even the brightest lights can’t always see the stumps and downed trees or other dangers. It is always a good idea to research the area you want to fish in while the sun is shining. Also, it helps to know what to do about potential problems if they aren’t obvious.
This is true even for structure and cover.
Your night will be more productive if you know the locations of submerged humps and live weed beds.
Find the prey
Aggressive predators are making their way into the shallows to eat a meal. And where dinner is, there will be guests.
You’ll find hungry predators where you find prey.
A good technique is to use your fish finder to search for prey methodically.
You’ll find hungry muskies, walleye, and bass where there are schools of baitfish such as perch, bluegill, or shad.
Keep it simple
Anglers carry a lot of tackles.
Your deck should be clear, and your tackle should be kept to a minimum.
That can become a problem at night.
Deck clutter can cause accidents on the one hand. Night fishing should be enjoyable. A trip to the emergency department can ruin a fishing trip.
However, you won’t need every lure to make it happen at night.
Few lures are sufficient to create enticing vibrations.
Think spinners with Colorado blades and chatter baits.
The moon is visible
Anglers are well aware of the effects of the moon phase on fishing. But, by night, it is almost everything!
You can bet the fish will bite!
I spend six minutes on the water and plan my fishing trips around these moments.
- Sundown –I aim to be on the water at least an hour before sunset to take advantage of the changing light. This is the best time to fish, especially for pike species.
- Moonrise –Predatory fish sense when the moon rises and turn on their food just like at sun-up. Be prepared to know when the moon will rise over your local pond, lake, or river, and be ready.
- Overhead –This is another crucial moment fish respond to, for reasons science is just beginning to understand.
- Underfoot –Fish turn on like an overhead moon for unknown reasons, but they do so because it is well-verified.
- Moonset –As the sun sets, night predators become more aggressive as they feed, and some of the larger ones will move.
- DawnIt is hard to find an angler who doesn’t know the value of fishing in the hours before sunrise.
Also, you’ll want to search for full moons or none. The crescent moon draws out fewer big fish than the full moon.
Bucher kept records of each phase of moonlight. His data shows that real brutes are more active when there is no moon.
He believes that muskies still appear in waxing and waning phases, but they are more common during moon peaks.
Make sure you have a quality headlamp
A good headlamp and backup batteries are essential.
For night fishing, a quality headlamp is vital.
Both hands will be required to see clearly.
This topic has been discussed before. For our complete reviews, see this article: Best Headlamps for Fishing: Light up the Darkness and Land More Fish.
It doesn’t have to be the end of a fishing day. With the right knowledge, sundown could just be the beginning of an exciting angling adventure.
We hope you found this article helpful in preparing for your night on the water. If not, please let us know.
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