Night Fishing Tips for Freshwater | Great Days Outdoors

It has been a long, hot day here in the Deep South. Fishing in the brutal sun has been fun, but it has not been especially productive. After supper, it will be time to sit back, relax, listen to a ballgame on the radio… and then it will be time to get down to some serious fishing, using these night fishing tips.

Fishing at night has long been a favorite pastime of anglers who know how to catch fish in hot weather, and fishing under lights has long proven to be a successful way to find fish at night. This is why we’re headed back out on the water after the sun has set and things on the lake have quieted down. We find our selected spot, drop our battery-powered tubes into the water, and get ready for some fun.

night fishing tips

When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, it’s time for some great summer fishing.


Here under the lights on our pontoon boat secured to a couple of deepwater treetops, a cloud of tiny plankton and other food sources are drawing in a school of shad and herring baitfish which zips into the light beams and then back into the darkness.

More importantly, as the shad and other smaller baitfish move into and out of the light beams, other much larger and much more interesting fish are waiting to make a meal of the small fry which have been eating the plankton.

As we bait up and lower our minnows and jigs into the swirling cloud of light-attracted bait, it doesn’t take long before we get to know some of those larger and more interesting fish quite well.

While we stay in one spot and catch our fish for the next day’s fish fry, other anglers are moving silently along the lighted docks and bridge structures working the night waters for bass. This night fishing under the lights is good for stay-in-one-place anglers, and it’s also good for more active, mobile anglers.

Fishing at night under the lights is productive, fun, and lots more pleasant than sweating the day away in the hot, hot summer sun being bounced around by jet-ski wakes.


Night Fishing Tips – Choosing the Right Light


When it comes to fishing at night under lights, there are several ways to go about it. Some anglers provide their own lights, and some use lights that are already attached to docks and other solid places. But both night fishing techniques work well.

Anglers have long used light sources of many kinds from portable stadium lights to Coleman lanterns hung above the water to attract baitfish, and this traditional method works. However, anglers have more recently come to discover that light sources which are stationed below the water’s surface may very well work better than above the surface lights.

Darrell Keith with Hydro Glow, a major maker of light sources for fishing purposes says, “All lights are not the same. Underwater lights are always better since 100 percent of the light is used for attracting baitfish. Above-the-water types lose as much as 50 percent of the light by reflection.”

Turn on the lights and see what comes by. This fine catfish couldn’t resist the free food under lights.

Keith continues, “There are two factors that make a good fishing light. The distance of light transmission and baitfish attraction. The best color for attracting baitfish is green. Blue can also be used in saltwater but not freshwater. Blue will travel the farthest under water. But it is not as effective attracting bait. For more scientific explanation, plankton migrate to the light and reproduce making what sometimes appears as a fog or cloud around the light. This is the primary food source for shad, herring, and other baitfish. So basically what we are trying to do is draw the baitfish to the light and the predators will follow. Blue light travels farther under the water, but green travels farther than the remaining light colors, and green attracts baitfish.”


Night Fishing Tips – Boat and Dock Lights

Darrell Keith night fishing tip, “I recommend placing one or two lights per boat, one toward the bow and another toward the stern. If on a wide boat such as a pontoon, one on each side will be a good setup. Just lower the lights a few feet below the surface and tie them off. If you’re fishing on a full or bright moon phase, try lowering the lights deeper.”

Keith continues, “For dock applications, the same technique is true. Just make sure that you use a model that does not put 120w current into the water for safety. One or two lights such as the SF100 or the SF200 underwater dock lights are anchored to the bottom just in front of the dock shining up from the bottom. You will attract more fish this way.”

Crappie are very commonly caught under summertime lights.

We’ve seen this kind of permanent dock lighting arrangement in action, and the number and size of predator fish which are attracted to these glowing food sources at night can be very impressive. Large schools of crappie, white and striped bass, and quite a few largemouth and spotted bass will come to find food at night at these lighted docks, and anglers can often take advantage of the actively feeding predator fish.


Night Fishing Tips From a Fish-Catching Expert

Our buddy and professional guide, Lee Pitts, offers us some good advice when it comes to using lights of all kinds for night fishing.

Captain Lee says, “I am old school. I still use the lanterns. I like to put tin foil backing on the glass. This allows the light to penetrate the surface better, and the light does not blind me while I’m tying and watching my floats. Also, with the new LED lights, I use them in my boat to help me keep baits organized and to keep from tumbling overboard.”

Some very big slab crappie will come to the summertime lights.

When fishing under lights at night, Captain Lee uses both live bait and artificials, especially when he’s crappie fishing. He says, “I like a mixture of both at night. I prefer big floats. They make it easier for me to watch. I will cast a minnow out under a float to leave stationary, and then I will cast a jig under a float to work it in different directions so that I can find feeding fish with my jig.”

He adds, “Fishing at night all depends on what time of year and where the fish are in their migrations toward the bedding areas. Earlier in the year, I set up on creek channels where fish, just like during the day, are suspending following bait and not holding on to structure. In summer, the pressure is off these fish at night and the bait really relates to light, and this, in turn, pulls crappie right to you.”

Fishing at night under permanent light sources such as dock lights, lights around bridges and roadways can be very effective for bass anglers. Anglers can work a lot of dock lights in the course of an evening’s fishing, and some truly large summertime bass are caught by anglers at night fishing docks lights.

night fishing tips

Bass will work light-attracted baitfish for anglers.

Capt Lee says, “Back when I could stay awake after dark, I loved full-moon nights in the heat of the summer. Riprap causeways and rocky banks were ideal places for largemouth and spotted bass. I love black spinner baits with a big Colorado blade to put off a lot of thump. Also, crawdads hatch on rocks during the full moon, and a ½ oz. jig with a rattle is a favorite. One of the best patterns for bass fishing at night is running boat docks that have big outside lights that stay on throughout the night, preferably in the major creeks toward deeper water.”


Bit of Caution for Night anglers

Of course, fishing at night requires anglers to have good navigation lights in good working order on the boat for travel to and from the fishing area. Captain Lee offers some other good night fishing tips for anglers, regardless of what technique and locations they choose.

Captain Lee says, “The biggest thing to remember is there is a whole degree of difference of difficulty in fishing at night. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong at night. Preparation is the key. Before you go out for a night trip, make sure everything is organized and in good working condition. The last thing you want is to stumble around and possibly get a hook in your hand. Also, remember in the summertime to take plenty of bug spray, because, on these rivers and lakes, the bugs will take you with them.”


Important Contact Information

Hydro Glow, Inc.



Captain Lee Pitts

Pitts Outdoors Guide Service




This article first appeared in the July 2018 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.





Stay Updated

Get outdoor trends, data, new products, and tips delivered to your inbox.