Sundown Sessions: Nighttime Kayak Fishing
This article by our friend Derrick is worth the read if you've seen it - and definitely worth the read if you haven't. He is a top knotch man, angler, dad, and friend.
Want to get out on your kayak more often but too busy making a living during the day? Can't get out on the weekends due to chores and catching up? No worries.
Instead of sobbing on the couch about how bad your workday was, load your kayak, bring a rod and get out for a sundown session. Just because the sun is going down and light is limited on the water doesn't mean you're restricted from chasing fish.
Sundown sessions are better described as a kayak fishing trip in the late afternoon until the sun sets into the night. A couple of hours, sometimes less, is all you need to quench your shallow water thirst. Before I go any further we must discuss safety.
Night-time Kayak Fishing Safety
Safety is the key to having a good time on or off the water. Low light and sometimes no light conditions can be tricky to navigate at times, so plan your trip with that in mind. Choose a fishing location that may have lots of man-made light: streetlights, etc. Bridges or highways are usually ideal locations, that way light from the cars and light posts will help with navigation back to your launch site.
Other safety measures to follow are your local fishing laws and regulations. Here in Florida, the Coast Guard requires you to have a light on your vessel (kayak) that can be seen for 360 degrees, a floatation device (life jacket) and a whistle or horn. All of the above are required but since you will be on a kayak and are limited to movement, some sort of other source of light like a head lamp or cordless spot light is important to see ahead of you or to give you some light for rigging your rod. I prefer a head lamp since they are hands-free and compact. Do not forget spare batteries! Being caught out there with no light can be dangerous.
Last but not least, be sure to tell someone where you plan to launch from and the area you want to cover. Give that person a check in time that you will call or text message them that you are fine. Most cell phones have coverage in bays and nearshore these days so that should not be a problem. Being able to communicate with others is highly important when fishing after dark. Even a simple device like a Spot may be a good investment as well. It will send alerts out to family and the Coast Guard if submerged, acting like an emergency position indicating radio beacon or EPIRB.
Now that we covered the easy part, let's get in to fishing.
Choosing the Right Nighttime Kayak Fishing Tackle
I get a lot of phone calls from people asking what size rod or reel to use when fishing at night. To answer that question, I first need to know what type of structure is in the area you're thinking of fishing in. This is important since different areas have different type of structure. For instance, when fishing near or at bridges you have rocks, bridge pilings, etc. to worry about. You also have the chance of catching some really big fish. Fishing near mangroves can get your line all tangled up and you can even end up with a broken rod. Therefore, lighter tackle should be left at home. I suggest a reel with a smooth, strong drag in a size no smaller than 20 lb. test. If you know that tarpon, Black drum, or Gag grouper are in the area, beefing up to 40l bs. or higher may be the way to go.
The reason for this is that the structure near these bridges are a safe haven for the fish. As soon as most fish feel the hook-set their natural reaction is to run for cover and that's when the reel goes to work. A properly set drag will help to give tension against the fish, therefore keeping them away from structure and minimize a cut line. In combination with the reel, a quality rod with a strong backbone such as a medium heavy rod helps to"lift" the fish and direct them away from the structure.
When fishing the shallow flats where the only structure you may have is sea grass, then lighter tackle can be used and is suggested. 10-20 lb test outfitted with a light to medium rod at 7'-7'6" will suffice. Flats loaded with only sea grass gives you room to allow the fish to run tired with no worries of cutting the line on solid structure. This setting is great for night fishing since actually seeing structure is limited.
Night fishing can be fun and exciting as long as you follow these instructions. Having someone with you or even multiple partners to help you keep an eye out for danger is highly advised. Be sure to plan your trip wisely and you will enjoy many nights on the water doing what we all love to do, fish. Be safe and I will see you on the water.
Fishing Guide Derick Burgos