Because the really big fish feed at night I'm often on the water looking for trophy sized snook, trout and tarpon for my clients and I long after the sun goes down.
Just like in day fishing, tracking the tide will determine when I leave the dock to pursue these outsized specimens. Summer brings the best night fishing, which is a nice break from standing on my poling platform in the scorching sun all the time wondering if today is the day the day for my heat stroke and head-first, neck breaking unconscious dive into the muck below.
Night fishing brings its own unique set of problems with the most obvious ones being getting from point A to B without grounding, hitting a marker, another boat, manatee or crab trap.
Capt. George Tunison
Think of crab traps as land mines along your path. All through the area, especially through Matlacha Pass, crabbers deploy their traps in many cases right in or way too close to the marked channels. Of course if anyone finds one by mistake it usually will be a night fisherman like me.
Even in daylight with a little chop on the water, an algae coated crab trap float is still difficult to spot. Standing in a safe position as you drive helps, but I still manage to hit them.
I'm not much for travelling at idle speed night or day as I'm usually trying to make my milk run of favorite fishing holes to put fish on my client's line with limited time to do so.
Even though I could probably navigate blindfolded from memory through Matlacha Pass, these traps are the one thing that would put a quick stop to the journey.
Obviously a good quality, fully charged spotlight is my number one tool for night navigation in crabby areas, along with a flashlight or two for lure changing and problems.
Typically hitting a float and tangling the rope in the prop results in instant shut down of your motor which can cause you to be thrown around or out of the boat. On a shallow tide the prop can even hit the trap, which instantly can turn into a real nightmare.
Not so bad if you glance off of it and keep going, but in my most recent case I slowly backed into one at idle speed. The motor shut down and would not start. I was 30 yards from the mangroves where the lone no-seeum scout immediately radioed back to base alerting his three million buddies to my location and subsequent kamikaze attack.
Normally, it's strip down, grab the knife that you hopefully have with you, jump in and try to pull, pry, or cut the rope incredibly tightly wrapped in the prop. (I do a lot of shark charters each summer. Sharks want a little payback and would like nothing more than to have me cornered on their turf. Trying to pull or cut away a rope at night underwater anywhere in this shark filled area is, at best, unnerving.)
Thinking it wouldn't be that bad this night, I was only in a few feet of water. I slipped over the side knife and flashlight in hand. Covered in a coating of bloodthirsty bugs, I stingray shuffled my way to the prop only to find it completely and hopelessly encased in trap wire. Two o'clock, pitch black, bug covered, and useless knife in hand. Great!
I always recommend having small wire/bolt cutters on board to cut away hooks from lures which are tendon deep. Of course, this night they rested peacefully in my other boat. Long story short, a cell call to a sleepy bud resulted in a tow home.
Don't venture out at night without safety gear, fully charged lights, two knives, small bolt/wire cutters, a cheap spare prop and tools to change it, and of course a fully charged cell phone.