Inshore night fishing is not for everyone, but often that's when the wise old giants come out to play.
Look at the huge eyes of tarpon, snook, even ladyfish. All perfectly designed for night feeding.
Trophy fish play the game on their terms hiding and ambushing large prey under the cover of darkness, then hiding way back under a low hanging dock all day digesting that delicious two-pound mullet while you cast all day catching the little guys.
Capt. George Tunison
For this reason alone mastering the art of skip casting, being able to place lures or bait way back and under docks and mangrove shorelines, is important to the daytime angler. If you are a perimeter caster, only because it's easier and with less chance of getting hung up, you're passing up quite a few fish and usually the bigger ones.
Fish have no eye lids or sunglasses so in bright sun and shallow water, shade or deep water provides relief.
An exception is in dead cold winter you'll often see snook and others lying on the bottom in super skinny clear water absorbing solar heat on a warming afternoon.
Often times I'll pass these fish by instead of casting to them knowing they are just trying to survive the winter chill. Choice number two is to go after your giant at night, year-round.
Let's focus on snook. With the warm water spawning season long past, our resident cold snook are seeking shelter inland using back waters, the Cape and Fort Myers canals and river systems, all the way up the river to the Franklin Locks and beyond.
Many don't realize that downtown Cape Coral hosts monster snook year-round as well as other trophy sized species like resident tarpon.
Night fishing docks and other structure for snook, and fishing for a powerful 40-pound night dock snook, are two different ball games. The second choice requires much patience, perseverance, and luck.
With lots of winter snook seeking shelter under and around canal docks approaching quietly, especially at night is critical.
If you plan to fish a particular hot dock rather than doing a milk run of several docs, quietly anchor the boat at both ends and wait a bit before fishing, letting things settle down. Remaining quiet in the boat is vital. Boat bangers ruin their own luck.
Live shrimp/pinfish/baitfish under a float and allowed to soak is a winner. Another method is to hook a live shrimp and cast to the back of the dock, let it sink and oh, so slowly, crawl it back to the boat. Go slow.
Artificials include the many choices of plastic shrimp and small, suspending twitch baits like a MirrOlure, Rapala, or YoZuri worked ultra-slowly and tied to leaders with loop knots.
Your standard equipment with braided line testing 15-20 pounds sporting a 40-pound test leader will usually suffice.
Now that you've caught a few nighttime winter dock snook, some trout and a surprise redfish, the night doesn't seem so cold and now you're feeling a little bold.
Of course, being a single-minded snook trophy hunter your livewell will contain a nice selection of healthy 10-12 inch class mullet or ladyfish.
Your braided line will test between 80-100 pounds with a 60-100 pound test leader depending on how gnarly the structure. 5-6/0 sized hooks.
You must match the rod and reel to the heavy bait. Something that will allow you to accurately lob cast a one-pound mullet, set the hook, and get the beast coming your way and away from those pilings. That's a big rod!
Most importantly don't venture out at night without being totally prepared with safety equipment, lights, and a thorough understanding of your navigational route.