Informational Guide

How To Fish At Night

Fishing in the dark adds an extra element of preparation. We share our top equipment, techniques, and night fishing tips to make your trip a success.

by Andrew

Informational Guide

How To Fish At Night

Fishing in the dark adds an extra element of preparation. We share our top equipment, techniques, and night fishing tips to make your trip a success.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Do you ever notice how loud the bugs and frogs become at night? Think about when you see fireflies and the mosquitoes come out to play.

Well, the dark of night is also a great time to fish. Let's investigate to figure out why.

  • Fish are more active
    Because more of their prey is active and the water is cooler, some fish tend to be more active in the dark. Because they are less reluctant to feed during the dark hours, they will be more likely to strike your bait.
  • Less competition
    Nightlife in towns and cities adjacent to waterways can heat up when the sun goes down. This leaves the water with far fewer boats, let alone anglers. With fewer fishermen pursuing the fish, you have a better chance of picking the best fishing grounds, and therefore, catching better fish!
  • More comfortable 
    Being on the water all day can get hot. Not to mention that to avoid sunburn, you will have to wear long-sleeve shirts, hats, and glasses at a minimum. Night fishing is cooler with no threat of sunburn, making it much more enjoyable for most anglers.

What Do I Need for Night Fishing? Essential Equipment

Fishing in the dark adds an extra element of preparation necessary. It is not like the old days when building a fire or lighting a lantern was part of night fishing prep, but needing lights is still a part of the mix. You will still need your traditional gear as well. For baits, focus on more scent-oriented baits rather than visual attractants as well.

The fish will most likely be using their sense of smell rather than their eyes at night. Here is a list of gear to bring with you.

Best Night Fishing Tips

Rods and Reels

You have to get the fish in somehow, so you are going to need a rod and reel. Because night fishing is done primarily from shore, bringing as many rods as you are allowed to use legally is the best way to maximize catches. Set them up on rod holders and wait for the bites.

Baits and lures

Again, think scent or sound over visuals here. Most night fishing will be done with live baits or chunk baits, so make sure you have plenty on hand. Variety never hurts either.


Terminal tackle, hooks, and sinkers are a must-have when night fishing. Bring your tackle bag or box outfitted with everything you may need and more, including pliers and scissors.

Headlamps and extra flashlights (+ backup batteries)

While lanterns are always cool, headlamps and flashlights have become the norm for night fishing. Try to use lights with red lenses or LED patterns rather than white light. This will spook less fish. It will also alert fewer other anglers or noisy onlookers to your location.

Night Time Fishing Tips & Tricks

First aid & emergency kit

A medical kit is always a great addition to the tackle box or fishing bucket. You never know when you may cut yourself open. It is also nice to have in the instance where you run across another human in a precarious situation that requires medical attention. Know your kit, and practice how to use it. If you have to use it, it will need to happen fast.

Pocket Knife

Cutting lines, removing splinters, the list could go on and on. Having a pocket knife is essential for everyday life. When fishing, it is one of the handiest tools you can have on your person.


Communication is key. Having a cell phone means that you can call for help, identify a fish, and have a backup flashlight if needed. It can be the best insurance policy and the most useful tool all at the same time. You have one anyway; use it!

How to Fish at Night: Tips from a Pro Angler

Surf fishing at night

Surfcasting at night is awesome; you set up camp on the beach, cast out some chunk baits on your surfcasting gear. I like to get some lights and music going because it is usually calm and warm.

The potential of catching some fish is the same, if not greater than in the daytime, but you do not have to worry about other beachgoers. The key is to have a well-lit area or headlamp to make sure you can safely unhook whatever you do catch.  

Ice fishing at night

Nighttime ice fishing tip number one... try it! This has become a huge craze over the past two years. Camping on the ice in shanty huts is great. Because you are fishing from what is basically an insulated tent, you can have lights and food. 

Fishing is essentially the same as it would be in the daylight, but the prime time between dusk and dark is earlier in the winter, so you potentially just go out after work and be ice fishing in the dark.

River fishing at night

River fishing at night tips are as follows, use weights that keep your bait stationary, but not ones that are too large for you to tell whether or not a fish is biting. Because seeing your rod tip is not as pronounced in the dark as it is during the day, you will not want to be questioning yourself about whether or not that thumping is a fish or the current.

Also, be super careful fishing a river at night. If you accidentally end up in the river, you could get pulled away from all your gear.

Pier fishing at night

I do not have a ton of pier fishing at night tips. I would tell you to use fresh baits at a minimum. Fish will be patrolling the pylons looking for an easy meal, and you want your baits to stand out over the leftover hunk of cheeseburger that a tourist threw into the water. You can also take up a larger spread on the pier at night—Fish a few rods at different depths.

You are probably going to be one of the few people fishing, and that should be an advantage in itself.

Lake fishing at night

Catching fish in a lake at night is easy. Worms are the best in this situation. If you throw a worm out into the lake with a split-shot or sinker attached and you don’t catch bullhead or catfish, move to a different lake because that one is empty.

You can also use bread, corn, or dog food if you want to hook into a carp that will make your night an eventful one. Those fish fight like a taxi cab is heading in the opposite direction from shore.

Saltwater fishing at night

Saltwater fishing at night can be done a million different ways. Usually, this is the best time to take advantage of docs and marina rock piles when the tourists are all at the boardwalk. Those giant fish that everyone has been gawking at from the docks all day become your target, and they are easy pickings after dark.

Another route would be to patrol the shallows in a flats boat and sight fish with lights for predators lurking near weeds. Cast chunk baits out in front of them, and hold on!

Night Fishing Tips Saltwater

7 Most Popular Fish to Catch at Night

1. Crappie

Crappie is easy to catch at night, primarily through the ice. Set up your shanty, have a minnow on one rod and a jigging spoon for the other. As long as you find the fish, they should be active. Once you decide what they are liking more for the night, switch to running more of those baits, and you should get into them. Waxworms or crawlers are also a great crappie bait at night.

2. Catfish

Fishing for big catfish at night is like a religion in the South. Using bread or stink baits and casting from shore is as American as apple pie. Catfish use their sense of smell more than anything else, and they inhale baits. Catching large catfish, either blue cats or river cats, can be dangerous, so make sure you are not out there alone. Be alert and use oversized gear because they will not see the line attached to the hook anyway, especially if the water is cloudy or murky. 

3. Carp

We discussed catching carp in lakes earlier. Corn is your best bet. Get some canned corn, chum the water a bit, and wait for them to show up. Carp do have excellent eyesight, so you will not want to use oversized gear for these fish. They can get to be giant, though, and they fight very hard. A beefy rod in the medium to the heavy range with a medium action will probably work the best in this situation. Just enough to realize you are getting a bite but strong enough to pull in a monster.

4. Walleye

Fishing for walleye at night will dramatically increase your odds. These fish are nighttime predators and do most of their feeding after the sun goes down. Trolling, slip blabbering, or casting crankbaits will all work for these fish. Tips for catching walleye at night would be to use a slow presentation and fish from a boat if possible as the fish will typically be oriented to the bottom of the water column.

5. Steelhead

Night fishing steelhead tips are to use glow-in-the-dark lures or spoons. This has always worked well for me. In my neck of the woods, we troll for these rainbows using dipsey divers with UV-charged spoons, and it tends to work quite well. This is usually a pre-dawn bite in my experience, rather than a midnight bank fishing sort of bite. I am sure that could somehow work; I have just never had any luck doing that.

6. Trout

Fishing for lakers at night is almost the same as the steelhead, in my opinion. They like white or glowing baits, and they like them a lot! Brown trout are famous for being active at night and they will hit any sort of bait that is within range. I have caught browns in streams with roe or eggs at night, as well as crankbaits on the troll in shallow water at night. This is a fun species to target because they thrash and fight like crazy.

7. Salmon

Night fishing for salmon is tough. These fish use their eyesight to hit flashers and flies during the day, but at night, you are better off using live bait. A baitfish that is leashed to the bottom via weight or sinker will probably work the best. You could use a glowing spoon and flasher if you have a boat capable of trolling. This, similarly to the trout, is best just prior to daybreak.

People also Ask (FAQs)

Do lights attract fish?

Lights will attract fish more than they will scare them. Some glowing lights in shades of blue or green will attract baitfish, which ends up acting as a dinner call for larger predatory fish.

Do lighted bobbers scare fish?

Lighted bobbers are great for not only attracting fish, and indicating that you have one on your line. They do not seem to scare fish at all in my experiences. See some quality bobbers here.

Can fish see worms at night?

Fish can sometimes see worms at night, depending on the moon or how shallow you are fishing. The majority of the time, they will smell the worms, which will promote a strike.


So, there you have it, how to catch fish at night. We believe you now know how to not only go fishing at night but have the best chance of catching as well. For more tips and tricks on how to fish at night or what gear you should bring on your next trip, see our other articles and gear guides at Fishing Pax!