“Well, there they go,” chuckled veteran fly fishing angler Cory Routh, referring to the fishing boats and their crew that were leaving the docks in search of good fishing for the evening bite. “I know it sounds bad, but I think it’s kind of funny that guys motor around for miles and miles looking for fish and forget that they are often standing on the best grounds when they’re climbing into their boats.”
Routh, a professional guide that owns Ruthless Fishing out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, had invited me down to do some night time fishing and I was eager to go. I was however a little nervous, since I’d never fished at night before.
Nighttime Is the Right Time
Fishing docks at night poses more challenges than does daytime fishing. Things that stand out during the day can be almost invisible at night. Objects like fuel pumps with large black hoses wound around their base seem to want to reach out and grab you as you make your way down toward the water’s edge. Tripping is a big concern at night because uneven boards on the dock and cracks in the concrete walkway can easily send you headfirst into the water you wish to explore.
“It’ll take awhile before your eyes adjust to the darkness,” Cory said, “but soon you’ll be surprised at how well you can see.”
Sure enough, after about 30 minutes, my eyes no longer strained to keep objects in focus, and I slowly began to develop my “night eyes.” As we watched the changing tide, Cory pointed out what I knew to be good structure for holding fish. We spotted sandbars and rock jetties, we cast along shorelines with sharp drop-offs, and we poked around crab pots and cast towards bridge abutments.
I began casting a Clouser minnow, a common baitfish imitation under a nearby dock. The current from the tide pushed my pattern under the dock where I could see small bait fish huddling together. Lights under the dock often attract baitfish, this in turn attracts larger predators. I continued to cast with not a hint of a bite when suddenly the water exploded. My rod bent deeply and the reel began to scream as line flew off the reel.
“Don’t let him get under that dock Beau” Cory said to me, “If he does he’ll break you off on a piling.” Eventually I moved the fish out into open water and when all was said and done I’d landed my first night time fish, a beautiful juvenile striper that pushed 3 pounds.
When dock fishing at night, stay focused on your actions and be aware of your surroundings. Never fish a dock at night that you have not researched thoroughly in the daytime. What seems so simple in theory becomes quite difficult in real life with the absence of sufficient light. It’s also a good idea to fish with a partner.
Night fishing near docks is a great way to increase your fishing opportunities. Although this type of fishing is a bit challenging, it can be done effectively and safely by following some basic steps and using a little common sense. It’s exciting enough to catch saltwater fish on a fly rod, but doing it at night is an added thrill.
Ruthless Fishing; www.ruthlessfishing.com