Nighttime the right time. One of the best ways to beat the heat during the summer is to fish at night. With good nighttime tides, the coolest water temperatures of the day and the lack of fishing pressure, the nighttime bite has continued to be excellent. While you can still employ many of the same tactics that you would during the day, and fish many of the same areas, fishing at night also allows you to use different techniques that you normally do not get to experiment with during the day.
Light 'em up. Dock and navigational lights are not only a boater's best friend at night but they are also a favorite of nocturnal fish and fishermen. Bait fish, whose vision is poorer than that of larger prey, are drawn to the lights for safety and to feed at night, thus bringing in and concentrating larger gamefish to ambush feed. Now instead of working a whole dock or structure, you know with good certainty where most of your targeted fish will be in a certain area. Often when you pull up to a light you will see your redfish, snook, trout, etc. in the light, but when you don't, do not skip it. It is very common for larger and more wary predators to sit just outside the light waiting for a quick snack.
Be quiet. Just like your surroundings at night are quieter, so too are the surroundings for the fish. So it is important to be extra quiet and stealthy when approaching fish and fishing at night. Without the constant vibrations from passing boats, Jet Skis, people walking above and the lack of vision, fish are on high alert for any unusual sounds. It is best to drift up, use a trolling motor on low speeds or pole when possible, as even an idling four-stroke motor can give wary fish lockjaw. This is also a time when a shallow water anchoring device is very helpful as well.
Match the hatch. Although it is a very common saying in the fishing world, it is very applicable and easy to put into practice when fishing lights. Although we all have our favorite seasonal baits, what you see fish eat at night will often surprise you. Many times I have spent hours presenting what I thought were perfect baits to feeding fish at night with few results. One night, I filled the well with hand-picked shrimp and 4-inch whitebait, but instead of catching fish, I watched my baits swim around in the "danger zone" while the fish I targeted ate tiny baits and almost krill-sized shrimp. The next night I went out without bait, drove to the first light, netted the bait that I saw on it, and moved on to my next spot. That night was very productive. Instead of watching my baits swim nervously around fish that wanted nothing to do with them, I was fighting fish and taking pictures. You need to be ready and able to adapt. That is one of the differences between a good and great fisherman.
Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327 or [email protected] or online at FishingGuideTampa.com.