Night Fishing

In one day the air temperatures jumped from 60 degrees during the day to the mid-90’s. It stayed warm at night, too, and it remained consistently warm for a week. It’s that time of year for spring to transition to summer, and I’m not complaining; there are hotter areas in the country. What it means for my fishing is a change in water temperatures from perfect to warm. And now it’s time to start fishing at night.

There is nothing quite like the tug of a fish when it is pitch black and you’re standing in water up to your waist. On full moon nights it’s usually bright enough to have limited vision, but on new moons it is so pitch black that you’d swear you were fishing in a closet. We fish around the tides and my favorite time is when I can ease from last light gradually into the dark.

If you’ve never fished at night you might give it a try. Senses that you felt were long gone suddenly come alive. I remember driving on a beach with my friend Kenney Abrames. It was closing in on midnight and it was hot as heck, even with the windows down and the ocean breeze. He suddenly yelled “STOP! LET’S FISH!” We pulled off the over-sand tracks and walked the beach. Within minutes we were catching fish. When I asked him how he knew there were fish at that spot, he said he smelled them. How did he smell them? It’s simple: you remember what a fish smells like. After you catch a fish, hold your hand to your nose and breathe in. Remember that smell, and the next time you wander around at night you will be able to key in on the scent just like you can distinguish the grilled steak aroma wafting from a backyard bar-b-que.

Sounds. When the wind isn’t too stiff or if you’re downwind, you can hear fish a long way off. On quiet nights, on the ocean you’ll oftentimes hear fish slurping silversides or sandeels or slapping herring. If you’re trout fishing then listen first to the normal sound of babbling water. When you get used to that sound, listen for something different. A slap of a tail, an interruption to the current flow, or a boil. It’s probably a feeding fish. And when you hook up, the whine of a drag sounds far more dramatic than they do during the day.

I remember fishing a wide open pool on a trout river. I usually like more open water so I don’t hang a cast in a tree. There was a good hatch of Ephron leukon, a big, white mayfly that comes off in the August heat just after sunset. If I looked directly at what sounded like a rise, but I saw nothing, luckily from the corners of my eyes I could see ok. I’m told that peripheral vision in low light is just the way the eye works, but I relied more on my sense of feeling. I felt the way my rod loaded, the way the line swung, and the tug of the fish far better than I ever did during the bright sunlight.

I looked upriver and thought I saw a log drifting down towards me. I couldn’t really see just what it was, so I moved enough out of the way so I wouldn’t get hit, but not so far that I was away from the fish. I focused intently on my fishing. A moment later there was a giant slap of water. A beaver! A sound like that, so close at night when I was focused on the fish, was enough to make me lose my balance.

I fell in.

Every good entrance has an even better exit so map out your start and finish points. And give night fishing a try. It’s guaranteed to make you a better fisherman.
Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at