There is something magical about being under the stars, on the water, fishing at night. There is so much to see in the Cape's blue-black night sky.
I always enjoy natures' fireworks with the many meteorites burning through the atmosphere and wonder just how many millions of miles those ancient rocks have traveled, just to burn up, in front of my eyes.
The sounds of water lapping against the hull, the comparative coolness of the night. The heavy breathing of sometimes just plain curious dolphins, very close to the boat. The sounds of feeding snook sucking another unlucky baitfish or shrimp from the surface.
The night is busy and alive. One's senses, incredibly heightened by the reduced vision, become keenly aware of the surroundings, as you stand on the bow and cast into the darkness always hoping to hear the splash of the lure into water rather than mangroves that are always there reaching out trying to steal your offerings.
It is easy to slip away into your thoughts as another cast is automatically launched towards your target and the retrieve begins, imagining your lure swimming or darting below. Just as you are a million miles away, yet at the same time, deeply in tune with the night and the water, the strike comes and you are suddenly jolted back to reality. Sometimes for me, it can be down right scary, but always exciting. It is something one must experience to fully understand and something I look forward to every summer.
Preparation is the key to night fishing as otherwise it can be an experience in frustration as well as being dangerous. On the other hand it can be a trophy hunter's best friend. Some of my most memorable catches have come at night, especially snook fishing, with a near 40-pound monster taken on a "surface twitched" Mirr-O-Lure at Shell Point on a hot, humid July night covered in sweat and noseeums.
Besides having the obvious items such as running lights and safety equipment in good working order having a neat, uncluttered, boat is most important. Many times a trophy will have you doing laps around the boat and tripping over tackle boxes, coolers, and rods, in the dark can really make life difficult. Speaking of lights a good high-powered searchlight is vital as well as an assortment of small to tiny flashlights to search tackle lockers, tie-on lures, and release fish, all make life easier for the night fisherman.
Most areas of our waters I know like the back of my hand but in the pitch black it's very easy to be fooled no matter how many hundreds of times you have navigated the same course. A great tool is the flashlight hat which leaves hands free to take care of close up business. The first time you have to pick out a knot in a spool of Power Pro you will be in love with your hat light. LED interior hull lights as well as LED tackle locker and live well lights, are a major plus.
With all that said about lights, to increase your night vision and to keep from spooking fish, keep lights (and noise) to a minimum and inside the boat. Flashing lights on a shallow flat can spook fish especially wise old big-uns. Always keep some type of small light on to signal your presence on isolated back water flats even though you may be tempted to turn them off. Near high traffic areas, especially around bridges, never turn them off - and always wear a life vest at night especially when running.
Again, night fishing is about preparation. If you are fishing with a partner especially casting lures, always be aware of where your partner is standing and wearing a light pair of safety glasses is always a wise choice for casting or running.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.