J uly on the Texas Coast is hectic, to say the least. Armadas of boats, towed by SUVs full of families converge on popular coastal destinations, and launching ramps.
Fishing spots are all jam packed. One simple approach to the ensuing chaos is to fish at night. No crowds, you don’t need sunscreen, and the fish are still hungry. If you have never fished at night before, think about some of these options.
Many hotels along the middle and lower coast feature lighted piers that guests can fish on at night. Generally, it takes about an hour for the lights to start attracting predators.
The sly angler waits until midnight before heading out to fish. By this time, the hard charger who has been fishing since dusk is often tired and ready to head back to a soft mattress.
In addition, most young children have gone to bed. Nothing shuts down the bite on a pier like an excited child running down the pier to show their parents their catch. Thump! Thump! Thump!
Midnight to dawn is when fishing is best.
Having a pier all to yourself, or sharing it with a few other anglers is ideal. Jigs and tight-lined live bait fished on 10- or 12-pound test mono are sure-fire options. Stand in the shadows and cast into the lighted areas.
If fish are active at another light, silently pad down the pier and snipe at the feeding fish from the darkness. Harvesting a few fish from each light tends to keep them biting.
Many harbors have dockside lights that provide the same fish-attracting effect as lighted piers. One word of caution about fishing in a harbor: please have empathy for peace officers that might approach you.
Although you are holding a rod and reel, their job is to protect the property in the harbor. Be polite and if they ask you to move along, don’t hesitate to follow their instructions.
Early one morning as my family was sleeping, I decided to get up at 5 a.m. and fish the hour before dawn. Just as I was setting foot on the pier, a wade fisherman came out of the water 20 feet away. Three speckled trout, all in the five- to six-pound range, dangled from his stringer. A conversation quickly ensued.
Big speckled trout get that way because they are wary creatures and are risk averse. Rarely do they venture into the illuminated waters, preferring to hang in the shadows or darkness.
My new friend had a large, black topwater knotted onto his baitcasting outfit. He had purposely fished between 3 to 5 a.m. when noise from the adjacent pier would be at a minimum. Although he couldn’t see the fish blasting his plug, his ears sensed the blasts, and he could feel the added weight on the line.
Large, noisy topwater baits are great options for night fishing. You can fish them slowly and allow them to pause periodically, just like a loitering baitfish. Slush baits, with props on both ends, are one of my favorite plugs for night duty.
If you choose to wade at night, file a game plan with a loved one and avoid areas known for dangerous currents.
Packing a small net will minimize the chance of a thrashing trout plunging a treble hook deep into your hand during the landing process.
Before I start, I would like to say a word about fishing in canal communities.
I have received a boatload of angry e-mail over the years whenever I mention this in a column. Let me stress, it is perfectly legal for anyone to fish in the canals from a boat.
Property owners have harangued me about this, stating that their property line extends to the middle of the canal. Four different Texas Attorneys General have ruled on this, and all have declared canals to be public waterways since they ebb and rise with the tides.
As long as you don’t anchor or tie up to anyone’s dock, or private property, you are perfectly legal.
I would encourage anyone fishing in a canal community at night to be polite, keep noise and stray lights to a minimum, and absolutely no music or unruly behavior.
This type of fishing requires a boat or kayak. Slip quietly from light to light and snipe at the edges of the lights. If you hook a fish, pull them into the darkness where the struggle is out of view of their schoolmates.
By contrast, a thrashing fish hooked in the middle of the cone of light will shut down the bite for an extended period
If you are tired of getting sunburned, are a night owl, or just wanting a little quiet time away from the family, check out the midnight madness.
Email Greg Berlocher at [email protected]