Once the sun sets on a day fishing, many fishermen wish they could keep fishing. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean the fish stop biting, right? Depending on where you’re at, fishing at night is completely legal as well. But is it a good idea?
Are fish active at night?
The short answer is yes, most fish are active at night. For some predatory species like tarpon and snook, they’re actually more active at night than during the day! Predatory fish use the darkness to sneak up on their prey, and have evolved to be able to see well after dark.
Other nonpredatory species can also be active at night due to the lower water temperatures when the sun goes down. Cooler water is more comfortable (especially during the summer months) and allows fish to swim and be more active.
What Fish are More Active at Night?
There are many different species of fish that are more active at night than during the day. As we mentioned above, this is often due to more favorable hunting conditions as well as cooler waters.
Author Note: Most fish also don’t have normal sleeping or resting patterns and love patrolling at night. We’ll try and list out the most common species of fish that are more active at night.
Saltwater Fish Active at Night
Freshwater Fish Active at Night
- Largemouth bass
- Rainbow trout
- Many more
What Time of Day are Fish Most Active?
Most fish are active when the water temperature is cool and visibility is in transition. This means that fish are most active several hours before and after sunrise, along with several hours before and after sunset. We like to call this window the “golden hours”. If you want to maximize your chance of catching fish, you should be prepared to get up very early or stay out fishing very late.
For early morning fishing, we recommend fishing up two hours before the sunrises through several hours after. This is usually between 4 am and 8 am in the summer, and 6 am and 10 am in the winter.
In the evenings, aim to fish an hour before sunset and several hours after. This can be around 9 pm to midnight in the summer, and 4 pm to 7 pm in the winter.
It’s worth noting that these time ranges can change significantly depending on your latitude and location. The further north you are, the larger the chances are depending on the season. Example: the sun stays up later in the summer and goes down earlier in the winter.
Author Note: It’s also worth noting that most fish tend to like overcast and cloudy conditions more than sunny or clear days. Overcast days add to the low light conditions and increases the activity of smaller fish – which most predatory fish like to eat.
What Moon Phase is Best for Saltwater Fishing?
You may have heard a rumor that saltwater fish tend to bite more during full moons. In our experience, we’ve found this to be true.
The full moon illuminates the water at night which allows predators to see better and tend to eat more. This is a good thing if you’re fishing! Full moons also coincide with larger tide changes, which many saltwater fish like as well. Large tide swings bring in more nutrients from deep water. Baitfish feed on these nutrients and predators feed on the baitfish. So large tide swings are usually a good sign for fishing.
Is Night Fishing Legal?
In most states, it is legal to fish at night! And since many species are more active at night, you may want to try your hand at it. There may be specific restrictions, however, so be sure to check your state’s fish and wildlife department page for specific rules. The bigger issue with fishing at night is that it limits your own visibility and makes fishing difficult. Boating at night can also be dangerous if you don’t have the proper equipment. Here are some tips to ensure you’re staying safe.
Bring a Light
This probably goes without saying, but you’ll need to bring your own light to make sure you can see where you’re walking or boating. We’ve got a solid guide on underwater boat lights, or if you’re fishing from shore a large flashlight should work great. It’s also worth noting that many fish are attracted to light at night, so you might want to consider getting an underwater light (like the Green Blob Light) to attract them. This can be especially effective if you own a dock.
Scout Ahead of Time
Another important tactic to night fishing is to scout the area you plan on fishing ahead of time. Take note of obstacles or areas you could snag your lure on that you won’t be able to see at night. This will ensure you don’t waste equipment or time fishing in poor areas.
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Safety is always first when fishing at night, so make sure to tell someone who isn’t going with you that you’re going. This is important because if something were to happen to you, people will know where you are and can come to find you. It’s also a great idea to go night fishing with a friend. That way you can watch out for each other and make sure everyone stays safe.
Bring Warm Clothes
You might be surprised how quickly it gets cold at night! Even in warm areas, temperatures will drop after the sunsets. This is compounded when you’re near a large body of water that will also cool the air around it. Luckily there is an easy fix for this – bring a light jacket or sweatshirt you can throw on if you get cold. It’s as easy as that!
How to Go Night Fishing
We’ll start with where to look for fish that are active at night, then get into the proper night fishing gear.
Head for lighted areas.
As we mentioned above, both above water and underwater boat lights will attract small underwater creatures at night, which will in turn attract many different types of predatory fish. If you want to set up your own underwater dock or shore light, we recommend checking out the Green Blob fishing light.
Check out inlets, shallow areas, and residential areas.
During the day these places are often overrun with people and boats which scare away baitfish and fish you want to catch. At night, they become peaceful and a perfect place for predatory fish to hunt. Remember that predatory fish like hunting around cover so residential bays and docks make for perfect night-time fishing spots.
Bridges are also a good option.
As with docks and inlets, the cover provided by bridges and their pilings is solid for predatory to hunt around. Smaller shrimp and baitfish love these areas, and hungry fish won’t be too far away.
Don’t make unnecessary noise.
Along with amazing eyesight, many fish that are active at night also have a very good sense of hearing. If you make a bunch of noise walking towards an area you think might have fish, you’ll alert them to your presence and scare them away before you can cast your lure. Be quiet when you walk by taking light steps and do not disturb the water except for your lure.
Pay attention to splashes.
Just because you should be quiet doesn’t mean that the fish will! Many times you’ll be able to hear predatory fish feeding by listening for splashing sounds. Often times when a fish eats another fish it happens quickly near the surface.
Author Note: This means you can use silence to your advantage by listening for swishing sounds or small splashes out on the water. Since one of the hardest parts about catching fish is simply finding them, it’s paramount to pay attention to your surroundings to find them at night.
Use smelly baits or scents.
Since many fish that are active at night use both their enhanced vision and a keen sense of smell, be sure to use baits with heavy scents. If you’re using live baits, you’re good to go! If not, we like to use cut bait mullet or crushed crabs for extra scent. If you’re using artificial lures, be sure to coat them in fishing oil or glo scent. This will help hungry fish find your lures as well as cover up any foreign smells you may have imparted when rigging your line.
The Best Lures to Use at Night
There are many different types of lures that will work well at night, and your choice should depend on the species of fish you’re fishing for. In general, we like using lighter-colored lures that are easier for fish to see in low light. We also have found that fish respond best to more subtle lures and presentations. Stay away from crankbaits and rattling lures and go with stealthy spoons or spinners.
As always, if you are able to use live bait for the species you’re fishing for, use live bait. There’s no better substitute than using the fish’s natural prey as bait! Our favorite is mullet – check out how to hook mullet here.
Now that you know that many are active at night, we hope you’re more prepared to catch them. We’ve caught some of our biggest trophy tarpon as well as massive sharks just after dusk. Night fishing can be a ton of fun if you’re prepared with the proper equipment and stay safe. We hope this article has answered any questions you may have and will increase your chances of catching fish at night.