As you can see from the picture, our last overnight trip was outrageous. From 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM we had an endless swarm of fish feeding in the boat’s lights, a mix of yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, bonito, and tinker mackerel. We never slept, we spent way too much money on fuel and bait, and my back ached for a week. Obviously, it was well worth it – and I’d do it again in a moment.
The morning after a hot night offshore.
The awesome nature of night fishing on the ocean, however, comes with a fair measure of danger. You need to take some special precautions, and make sure you have the right gear onboard. Before you head out into the ocean for an overnight trip, make sure you:
- Get cyalume light sticks for everyone onboard. Once the sun goes down, each crewmember should use a rubber band to attach one to their belt loop. That way, if someone falls overboard they will always have a waterproof visual signaling device close at hand.
- Make sure everyone has a headlamp. Keep spreader lights turned off (or prepare to be blinded every time you glance up), and courtesy lights (below gunwale-level) turned on.
- Shoes are mandatory; flip-flops and sandals don’t count. The problem here is that in the dark, it’s really easy to drop a hook or a lure. And in the chaos of a hot bite, it’s easy to then step on said hook or lure with your bare foot.
- If the fishing is slow, establish a watch system that always keeps at least two people awake. If the bite’s hot this probably won’t be an issue, but on slow nights it’s easy for everyone to fall asleep during the wee hours. This is exceptionally dangerous. If one person falls over the side, the others may not wake up. And if everyone’s asleep you could get run down by a freighter, or another recreational boat. I know this sounds a bit far-fetched on the open ocean, but believe me, it has happened.
- File a float plan. It can be with a relative, a friend, or the Coast Guard. Either way, if you don’t return to the dock on time you want someone to at least have some idea of where to look for you.
Truth be told, with a little preparation and planning a night spent offshore is not incredibly dangerous. And when you get in on a hot night-bite, it can be about as thrilling as fishing gets.