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Night, Lights and Bites

Fishing during the dark hours after the sun sets and before it rises is quite literally the definition of night fishing, but there is a lot more to it. Fishing at night has likely been practiced for thousands of years. It probably evolved as a result of human adaptation to various fishing environments and fish species’ behaviors. However, according to, Hawaiians are believed to be the first to attempt to do so. These natives would use torches to spearfish in the shallow waters inside the reefs after dark. 


After the invention of the light bulb in the 1870s by Thomas Edison, using fire as a light source was quickly replaced by electricity, and anglers have learned to use light to their advantage, not only to find fish, but to attract them. Anglers have found that the lights they used as a guide can now be submerged into the water to draw in their prey. 


These fish lights, also known as submersible fishing lights or underwater fishing lights, attract fish and increase the probability of landing a catch by beginning at the start of the food chain. These lights are designed to emit specific wavelengths that appeal to various fish species. The lights help to attract smaller prey such as bait fish and plankton, which in turn attracts the larger predator, ultimately to be spotted by the fishermen. 


Using lights to fish at night leads to a whole new understanding of fishing. By pointing lights down in reasonably shallow water, anglers will either bring in curious fish swimming nearby or, more commonly, identify a fish they want to spear. Shining lights into the water at night makes it easier to see what’s under the surface because, during the day, the glare doesn’t allow for much visibility.


Several fish species, such as catfish and channel catfish, find food with their sense of smell instead of sight, which allows them to hunt anytime. That said, some of these fish are nocturnal and prefer to hunt at night. On the contrary, events such as insect hatching make trout or other fish go on a feeding frenzy throughout the night and may only happen for a day or two, especially in warmer weather when water temperatures are more favorable for feeding. This also makes them an easy target for anglers on the chase after hours. 


There are several different styles of lights on the market. 


Submersible fishing lights are typically waterproof and weighted to sink.


Floating lights can be placed on the water’s surface and are often used to illuminate the surrounding area, making it easier for anglers to see their lines, bait or fishing gear. They are portable and easy to deploy.


LED underwater lights are energy-efficient and emit a bright glow. They are used both for illuminating the water and attracting baitfish, to support the common goal amongst all lighting devices of drawing larger fish to the area.


Glow sticks or chemical lights are chemical-based light sticks that produce a low-intensity glow. Anglers might attach them to fishing lines or use them as markers for floats to help monitor the movement of their lines. When a fish bites or moves the line, the subtle movement of the glow stick becomes more visible in the dark, signaling to the angler that there’s fish activity. While glow sticks are a non-intrusive and affordable tool that provides a soft, continuous glow, the use of glow sticks does not directly attract fish; instead, they serve as aids for in line visibility and bite detection, contributing to the overall success of the fishing experience.


Lastly, headlamps and handheld lights, while not specifically designed for underwater use, can be handy for anglers to see what they’re doing on the boat or shoreline during night fishing.


The choice of which type of light to use always depends on the angler’s preferences, the targeted fish species, the fishing environment and local regulations. It’s important to consider the specific needs and conditions of the fishing trip to determine the most suitable type of light for your night fishing activities.



It’s important to note that while certain fish species are known to be more active at night, fish behavior can vary based on environmental factors, seasons and local conditions. Additionally, while some fish might be nocturnal, they might not exclusively feed at night and can still be caught during the day. Understanding the behavior and habits of the specific fish species you’re targeting can significantly improve your success when fishing.

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