The ever-increasing time demands of work and family commitments can make it frustrating trying to find enough space in the diary to do what is really important: to go fishing. I’m picking there wouldn’t be too many anglers out there who get onto the water as often as they’d like.
The situation is even worse in winter with the short days and less daylight. One solution is to think outside the square. What about all that time after dark, when work is finished and the family are tucked away in bed? The prospect of fishing at night is an inviting proposition for working around the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Even better, if you do things right, fishing at night is likely to put you in contact with a better class of fish than you might encounter during daylight hours.
There are some species that are very shy during the day and are more active during the night. These nocturnal species include sharks, mulloway and calamari.
Mulloway might be the most elusive of all species, especially in Western Port, but they provide excellent angling opportunities for those who fish at night.
Others that are active during the day but are still a viable option for night owls include snapper, whiting, gummy sharks, elephant sharks, leatherjackets, mullet, flounder, flathead, garfish, salmon, pike, snook and silver trevally.
When I look back at my fishing diary, I see that I have caught the majority of these species during the night on different occasions, but it is mulloway, calamari, snapper and gummy sharks are most prevalent.
One of the main benefits of fishing during the night is that it provides cover for the fish and they consequently feel more secure about hunting for food. Under the cover of darkness, fish will often leave their hiding places and venture into more open or shallower water than they would during the day. Fish often also attack baits and lures more aggressively at night because of the feeling of security that they have. Traditionally the best times to fish are considered to be first and last light, and this is partly because of the low light conditions. Fishing at night allows anglers to fish in low light conditions for an extended period of time.
There are two other major benefits to fishing during the night: quiet ramps and less boat traffic.
During the peak of snapper season, how long have you had to wait to launch your boat in the morning…an hour or two, or maybe longer? Fishing at night, by its nature, is inconvenient and attracts less anglers. As a consequence, there’s less waiting at the ramps – and more car parking.
Less boats on the water means less boat traffic. During the day, especially during the weekends when there are good sea conditions, there can be so many boats going back and forwards that fish can shut down. This is especially the case in estuary systems, as well as in the shallows of Port Phillip Bay and Western Port. During the night hours, noise and boat traffic isn’t really a concern.
Even though you may be familiar with your local waterway during the day, at night it can become a foreign landscape. With a little preparation, however, it can be enjoyed at night and the results can be absolutely outstanding. It’s important if planning to fish unfamiliar water at night that you go and have a good look at it during the day first.
Prior to heading out tell somebody where you’re going. This will give a good reference point for a search should anything go wrong. If you’re planning to fish a number of locations then tell your contact person all of them. If you move from any of those areas, use your mobile phone and let them know where you have gone. It only takes a minute and is a good safety precaution.
Preparing for night fishing is much the same as preparing for day fishing except for a few additional considerations. Pay special attention to making sure your trailer lights work, as well as the navigation and anchor lights on your boat. Check you have more than enough fuel and the boat’s batteries are fully charged. Have up to date flares, and most importantly, fully charge your mobile phone.
Additionally, you should pack spare clothing and, since it gets cooler during the night, some hot soup or coffee. Also make sure you have adequate quantities of fresh drinking water on board.
Although it is law to wear a lifejacket while underway in a boat up to 4.8m at all times, you must also wear one at night in boats between 4.8-12m. This is because boating at night comes under the heightened risk classification.
Additional things to organise on the boat are making sure you have adequate fishing room and the area is clear from obstructions. The last thing you need is to trip over your tackle box and fall overboard. The correct storage of your gear is paramount when fishing during the night.
Also make sure your fishing equipment is prepared before you hit the water. It is much easier to rig up your lines in the light of the loungeroom than while bobbing around in a boat in the dark. Similarly, bait and berley should be prepared well in advance.
Obviously when fishing at night your vision is reduced. As a consequence, you will need to have some supplementary light sources organised before leaving port. Normal torches are good, but lanterns and miner’s lamps are better because they allow you to keep you hands free for fishing.
The flashing lights from channel markers can become quite confusing, so taking it slowly is very important. A thorough understanding of what the channel lights actually mean is also necessary to avoid running aground.
It is a law that you must keep your port and starboard navigational lights on at all times when underway at night. In addition your anchor light (an all-around white light) must be on at all time while under anchor. However, some anglers choose to turn their lights off in case other anglers come over to fish. This is extremely dangerous and puts both you and the other vessel’s occupants in grave danger.
Check the local weather conditions thoroughly before venturing out. You will have limited visibility out on the water to judge waves or swell, and it can turn very nasty. Remember: if in doubt, don’t go out.
Even though anchoring correctly always requires good technique, at night it can be even more complicated. Lowering the anchor is fairly easy but retrieving it, especially when using an anchor ball, can be a little more difficult. A hot little tip I picked up is to get some reflective tape and wrap a few pieces around the ball. This way, when you drive off you can shine your torch onto it and it will light up so you know where it is at all times. Untangle that anchor rope before you leave home, too!
With a little preparation you too can explore the fishing potential of your local waterway during the night. It is not uncommon to hear success stories of absolutely fantastic catches. It is up to you, be prepared and have a successful night’s fishing trip for yourself.
NIGHT FISHING CHECKLIST
1. Have you checked the weather forecast?
2. Are the trailer lights working?
3. Are the navigational and anchor lights working?
4. Are the boat’s batteries charged?
5. Do you have enough petrol?
6. Are your flares up to date?
7. Does your torch and headlamp work?
8. Can you access the fire extinguisher?
9. Is your mobile phone charged?
10. Do you have spare torch and GPS batteries on board?