Fishing at Night

Gulf Coast night fishingUntil a few weeks ago, the Alabama Gulf Coast had enjoyed a pleasant summer without any real scorchers. However, those of us who have lived here for a while know the heat and humidity will show up sooner or later.

When that happens, it’s time to go nocturnal with our fishing endeavors. Make sure the running lights on your boat meet U.S. Coast Guard standards and ease the boat down the ramp just as the sun sets or in the wee hours of the morning if you’re a night owl.

Now that the kids are back in school and the beach enters its shoulder season, there won’t be nearly as much competition for the best fishing spots.

Even with the reduced activity, anglers who pursue speckled trout and redfish under the lights need to keep one key word in mind – stealth. The target species don’t tolerate a lot of noise or disturbance. Instead of preying on the baitfish, they will ease back into the deep water and find a quieter place.

Piers and boat houses with lights on the bays, bayous and islands are where the fish hang out. The overhead lights attract insects, which attract small fish and crustaceans, which attract the target species of speckled trout (spotted seatrout) and redfish (red drum) with an occasional flounder mixed in. Shrimp and glass minnows will likely be found under the lights as well as juvenile blue crabs.

Live shrimp and minnow-imitation plastic lures hooked on a jighead seem to be the most productive, but don’t throw a large lure under the lights. Downsize the lure to match the bait, which is often very small.

When you approach the light, cast to the edges of the light where the shadows make perfect places for the big fish to hang out and snatch a shrimp or juvenile crab as it is swept along by the tide. Continue to cast closer and closer to the middle of the light. Then move to the next light.

I often downsize my fishing line a bit for the night fishing, but don’t go too small because you might have to wrestle a fish away from the barnacle-encrusted pilings. I’ve found that 12-pound test monofilament or 10-pound fluorocarbon on either spinning or baitcasting tackle works best for me. The water clarity will determine whether I use a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader for stained water or 15-pound fluorocarbon when the water is clear.

If I’m using live shrimp, I try to keep the rig as simple as possible with just a No. 1 Kahle or No. 2 live bait hook. Toss the shrimp up current and let it drift through the light.

And that hookset can be important as well. When a live shrimp sees trouble lurking in the shadows, it may start taking evasive action. Learn the difference between a panicked shrimp and a trout bite. A lot of times, a fish will grab the live shrimp under the light and move to the shadows before swallowing the bait. So be careful not to jerk the bait out of the fish’s mouth.

The piers near deeper water seem to produce better numbers and better fish, but remember to be courteous around piers with lights. If the owners or renters are out on the pier, move on to the next vacant pier with a light. And if you do happen to toss a lure onto the pier and get snagged, just donate the lure to the pier owner and break it off. Don’t get on someone’s pier to retrieve a lure without permission.

Fishing around the lights can be very productive this time of year, not to mention much more comfortable.

David Rainer (76 Posts)

David Rainer has written about the great outdoors on the Alabama Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. For 14 of those years, he covered the many fishing opportunities on the Gulf Coast as outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register. He is past president of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and currently serves on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Outreach and Education Advisory Panel and the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef & Restoration Foundation board.


About David Rainer

David Rainer has written about the great outdoors on the Alabama Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. For 14 of those years, he covered the many fishing opportunities on the Gulf Coast as outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register. He is past president of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and currently serves on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Outreach and Education Advisory Panel and the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef & Restoration Foundation board.

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