Night falls and hopes rise. Indeed, spring through summer offers tremendous night fishing opportunities throughout southern coastal waters. Cooler temperatures, less boat traffic than daylight hours and predators emboldened by the cover of darkness – now that’s the recipe for a trip worth taking.

Species mix and specific opportunities vary by region, but a handful of key principles will lead to a successful outing.

1. Lights are right
Whether they’re intended for topside illumination, or specifically angled toward the water for ambient appeal, lights hitting the water’s surface tend to attract baitfish and crustaceans. Such gatherings, along with those that simply drift through with the tide, are easy pickings for trout, redfish, snook, tarpon, ladyfish and any predator savvy enough to use these windows of high visibility to ambush prey.

Target the light rings with minnow and shrimp imitators–or drift a live baitfish or shrimp under a cork–and expect aggressive response.

2. Work with the water
Present baits naturally with the water direction. Tide charts (Smartphone app or printed charts from bait shops) will tell you the ebb and flow schedule, but you can quickly determine water direction and current strength by simply observing the movement of crustaceans, leaves and other flotsam.


3. Vary the presentations
If the fish are biting a certain bait on every pass, no need to change. But if you’re trying to determine the nightly preference, or if a hot bite dwindles, try a variety of looks. With live baits, try various hook positions and floating depths. With lures, throw a mix of jigs, topwaters, lipped plugs and artificial shrimp until something establishes consistency.

4. Leave it neat
Fun as it is, night casting can be tough in terms of presentations. Low light fiddles with your depth perception, so you may find it challenging to dial in your casting distances. Don’t despair if the occasional cast gets away from you. Snagging the dock or landing a bait on the deck or guard rails is just part of night fishing. Just make sure you’re a good guest and do your best to retrieve any wayward tackle.

Once you’ve finished fishing a structure, ease up close and use a rod tip or net handle if needed to dislodge any snags.