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Under the Cover of Darkness
  |  First Published: April 2009



Fishing is one of the most enjoyable hobbies. It’s such a joy to take the kids out and teach them all about fishing, and mostly to give them memories that will stay with them forever.

But in today’s busy lifestyle we rarely get the time to get out on the water as often as we’d like. To work around the hustle and bustle of every day life, the prospect of night fishing has become an inviting proposition.

NIGHT BENEFITS

There are two major benefits to fishing during the night (and by night I don’t mean all night, just a few hours after dark); 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…1hr, 2hrs or maybe longer? When fishing during the night there’s no waiting at the ramps and more than adequate car parking.

The other benefit is much less boat traffic on the water. During the day, especially during the weekends when there is good sea conditions, fish can shut down due to the boat noise. This is certainly the case in the estuary systems. And will also be for Port Phillip Bay and Western Port when fishing for whiting, mulloway and calamari in the shallows.

During the night hours, noise and boat traffic isn’t really a concern since most anglers have spent their energy pursuing their trophy fish during the day.

DO FISH SLEEP?

A frequent question asked about night fishing is whether fish sleep. The answer to this is quite simple, yes. All animals do sleep at one time or another but with fish it’s a little different. Fish tend to go into more of a trance than actually sleep.

Many freshwater fish, such as bass or perch, hide under logs and rest during the night. Saltwater fish, such as wrasse and other reef species, rest in crevices and cracks to avoid being eaten. Minnows and other small baitfish that are extremely active during the day, tend to scatter and remain motionless in shallow water at night. Sharks and other pelagics have to keep moving to keep water cycling through their gills in order to breathe, however they can still sleep while doing so.

I was once told many years ago, that fish have the ability to shut down one side of their brain for it to rest, then after a period of time wake up and rest the other half. This is a very clever and unique trait to have, especially in the marine world.

Although fish do sleep to some degree, they still need to feed whether it is day or night.

AVAILABLE SPECIES

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 also active during the day and still a viable option for night owls include snapper, whiting, gummy sharks, elephantfish, leatherjackets, mullet, flounder, flathead, garfish, salmon, pike, snook and silver trevally.

When I look back at it, I have caught the majority of these species during the night over the past years on different fishing occasions, but it is mulloway, calamari, snapper and gummy sharks that are most prevalent.

PREPARING FOR THE NIGHT

Even though you may be familiar with your local waterway during the day, at night it can become a foreign landscape. But with a little preparation it can be enjoyed and the results can be absolutely outstanding.

Prior to heading out tell somebody where you’re going; this will give a good reference point should anything go wrong. If you’re planning to fish a number of locations then tell that person the locations you intend to fish. If you move from any of those areas, use your mobile phone and let them know where you have gone. It only takes a second 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 the trailer lights, navigational lights, the quantity of fuel, batteries fully charged, anchor light, up to date flares, and most importantly, fully charge your mobile phone.

Additionally, you should also pack spare clothing, since it gets cooler during the night, some hot food like soup or some coffee and make sure you have adequate quantities of fresh water on board.

Although it is the law to wear a life jacket while underway in a boat up to 4.8m during the day, at night in boats between 4.8-12m, the occupants are also required to wear one. Fishing by night falls 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. Along with safety being the highest on the priority list, the correct storage of your gear is paramount when fishing during the night.

NIGHT PRECAUTIONS

When fishing at night your vision is quite reduced, and the flashing lights from channel markers can become quite confusing, so taking it slow is very important.

It is the law that you must keep your navigational lights on at all times when fishing at night and your anchor light on while under anchor. However, some anglers choose to turn them off in case other night anglers come over to fish. This is extremely dangerous; it puts both you and the other vessel’s occupants in danger.

Check the local weather conditions before venturing out. You will have limited visibility out on the water to judge waves or swell, and it can turn very nasty.

Even though anchoring correctly requires its own techniques, by night can be a little 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.

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 absolute fantastic catches. It is up to you, be prepared and have a successful nights fishing trip for yourself.

Facts

NIGHT FISHING CHECKLIST

1. Have you checked the weather forecast?

2. Are the trailer lights working?

3. Are the Navigational lights working?

4. Are the boat batteries charged?

5. Do you have enough petrol?

6. Is the anchor light working?

7. Are your flares up to date?

8. Does your torch work?

9. Can you access the fire extinguisher?

10. Is your mobile phone charged?

11. Do you have spare torch and GPS batteries on board?

12. Is the fishing area free from obscurities?

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