Fishing at Night Part 2

June 23rd, 2009

by Captain Paul Rose

Fishing at night

In Part 1 of night fishing, we reviewed a few safety tips, precautions and that sense of readiness which makes your experience a bit easier, safer and more enjoyable. Part 2 is making the fishing productive, which is always a plus. When I think about night fishing, visions of largemouth bass always come to play.

The largemouth is prevalent in our local waters and is becoming, if it isn’t already, the number one sought-after gamefish but not without a price. Lakes pressured by recreational anglers, bass clubs and even the pro circuit can make fishing tough at times, especially for the weekend guy. Add in the summer heat, higher water temperatures and increased pleasure-craft traffic and it’s not hard to understand why ol’ bucketmouth becomes even more elusive. Anglers with a bit of an adventure flare and a lot of caffeine realize night fishing is a way to adjust to circumstances out of their control.

Largemouth along with a host of other gamefish such as crappie, stripers and catfish all adjust to the above problems. Fish will typically retreat to the safety and comfort of deeper waters on long summer days. But this same pattern reverses as the sun goes down. Savvy anglers adjust as well.

Before venturing out, it is imperative to know your lake in the daytime just as you would a bathroom trip in your house at 3am. Not only is it a safety issue but it’s the way you know where to begin. Otherwise, finding spots at night just becomes a shot in the dark, as they say.

Once you’re out, focus your initial efforts around wood and weeds. Find these areas and you will find bass. Docks with light attract all parts of the food chain including predators. Add structure below a light under a dock and you may not need to travel far, always a bonus with gas prices soaring. I heard from a longtime fishing partner who swears by white boat docks. It is felt the white background against a dark sky allows bass to find its prey easier. Bass do tend to miss more at night so the idea has some merit. Be observant during the day when on the water and you just may pick up a few of these night honey-holes.

Long tapering points, beach areas, edges and bars are also productive places to fish. Remember an edge is created anytime two opposing or opposites meet. Light vs. dark, moving water vs. stillwater, or weed vs. rock are just a few examples. Any fisherman that learns to recognize edges, whether in freshwater or saltwater, will be more successful. Remember edges can be very dramatic or very subtle.

The same tackle is used at night as in the day. What you are most used to is probably more important. If your not use to a fly rod or bait-caster, I would use the spinning rod at night. Be rigged and ready. Have multiple rods with different lures ready and at an arms reach. Changing lures and tying knots is best done in the daylight. With that in mind I still have a headlamp and extra batteries ready. A small lantern is also nice on-board.

Conventional tackle should include a top-water rod – I still love a black Jitterbug – and a soft plastic rod – great with an 8-inch black rubber worm. These two outfits get me through most nights and they always seem work. Call it confidence if you will. I try to avoid lures prone to snagging such as a crankbait with 3 treble hooks. Go weedless, fish around structure and you will have fewer problems.

Flyrodding is another option and more fun than most methods. Try a deerhair popper for top-water and a dark wooly bugger for subsurface presentations. Clousers and Deceivers around those dock lights in varying sizes will catch anything that swims. Use a stripping basket to avoid line management issues. Regardless of your choices become a minimalist at night, stay organized and stay simple. This actually works well anytime. Spend time fishing with the lure in the water!

With fish becoming less wary at night, more aggressive, opportunistic and feeding shallower the above approaches works pretty well. Plus darkness covers any liabilities an angler may have such as casting distance or pinpoint accuracy. Rather than changing lures, try changing techniques. Let a top-water sit after a cast or try a quick retrieve as soon as it hits the water. Try swimming a soft plastic thru cover rather than bottom bouncing. Keep in mind sound is amplified at night so use it your advantage. Distances can be tough to judge at first but soon you will develop your night vision. Try a dark night or try the full moon night. Werewolfs seem to like it.

Try a night trip this summer and you are sure to like it. Plan it. Do it. The bass – and who knows what else! – are waiting.

Carolinabonefishing.com is a fly fishing guide service owned and operated by Capt. Paul Rose located in Charlotte,NC. Paul offers a saltwater clinic using tailing carp on area lakes as a teaching tool for fly anglers out of a Hellsbay flats skiff. Other destinations include the NC mountains for trout and the Lowcountry for redfish. Paul is also a member of the Southeast Outdoor Press Association. Visit his website at carolinabonefishing.com or call 704-616-6662. For additional information or story ideas, email him at Paul@carolinabonefishing.com.

Fishing at Night Part 1

June 23rd, 2009

by Captain Paul Rose

Fishing at night

With summer arriving with record temperatures and humidity, water becomes the focus for us all. And, lets face it, it’ll be awhile before it’s going to be any cooler. For some, relief is wakeboarding, rafting up or even just cruising the lakes. But what about us? The fishermen? Obviously fish adapt to the weather and so must we. One way that is effective is to fish at night.

Fishing at night far outweighs the negatives it can offer. First, boat and jet ski traffic is greatly reduced giving the lake a bit of a rest as well as the fish that have retreated to deeper water during the day. Water surfaces temperatures soar in the heat of the day but become cooler at night, particularly if you add an afternoon storm. Those fish that retreated during the day also come back to the shallows at night with empty bellies and an aggressive, less spooky nature. Plus a fisherman who spends the daylight hours pulling the tube and swimming with the family gets a fair amount of “brownie points.” The redemption value of these points is much less say between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am on any given night.

Here, we’ll discuss the things you need to do before venturing out for a foray into the moonlight. In Part 2, we’ll focus on the fishing skill set needed.

To start, the boat and motor of your rig needs to be in excellent working order. Anything that is remotely marginal needs to be addressed. Batteries, navigational lights, trailer lights and starter issues come to mind as a common source of problems. Silly as it sounds, be sure to check fuel and oil levels before leaving the dock. Few marinas are open at 2 am and your buddy will probably not answer the cell phone.

Do you have accessible PFD’s for everyone on board? Be sure to wear them at night at all times. A bump in the night can send you or your loved in to the water without warning. Try a Type V PFD, which are very comfortable but must be on to provide safety. Your dockside checklist can include some valuable extras. A charged cell phone, GPS that you can work and a Q beam for spotting hazards or channel markers round out your gear.

A small emergency kit on board can provide additional supplies in the event something goes wrong. The kit does not take up space and everyone on board should be instructed as to its whereabouts. Besides the items required by law to have on board, such as a fire extinguisher, add a signaling device, an extra light source with batteries, and a basic first aid kit. Bug spray, a light jacket, an extra set of clothes, raingear and a list of emergencies number such as Seatow or Tow Boat are also important. A pad and pencil for jotting down fishing conditions or landmarks for navigation can help for the return trip home or for a journal entry at a later date. This basic list can be adjusted accordingly depending on your trip goals.

Once you are ready to head out, file a basic float plan with someone who cares. Let them know where, when, who you’re with and expected returning time. Remember night trips require you to be familiar with lake in the daylight hours. Exploration trips are not to be done at night. Besides being unsafe, not being familiar with the lake reduces fishing time and enjoyment of the trip. Why waste time feeling your way along rather than throwing your favorite topwater lure? Exploring in the day lets you find those wooded shorelines and other fishy spots at night. Mark them on the GPS and have a route planned in advance. Also note hazards, water depths, shoals and contour changes. Then run the route in the daytime.

One last check of the weather is always wise noting approaching storms. Remember lightning kills. Moon stages and peak fishing times are always fun to watch. There are more myths and tales about this and it is fun to see if it really matters. You make the call on this and let me know when you got a sure pattern.

Night fishing is always thrilling even if the fishing is slow. Maybe it is our imagination after-all, all fisherman have one. Some are just bigger than others. Follow these few safety tips and you will be prepared in case something goes amiss. Have fun.

Carolinabonefishing.com is a fly fishing guide service owned and operated by Capt. Paul Rose located in Charlotte,NC. Paul offers a saltwater clinic using tailing carp on area lakes as a teaching tool for fly anglers out of a Hellsbay flats skiff. Other destinations include the NC mountains for trout and the Lowcountry for redfish. Paul is also a member of the Southeast Outdoor Press Association. Visit his website at carolinabonefishing.com or call 704-616-6662. For additional information or story ideas, email him at Paul@carolinabonefishing.com.

Summertime Bluegills and the Kids

June 23rd, 2009

by Captain Paul Rose

Bluegill fishing

Summer breaks always conjure up memories and traditions from years gone by for young and old alike. A trip to the beach, a day at the amusement park or a day at the lake quickly come to mind. More than likely, the lake trips involved fishing and for most, fishing for spunky “bluegills” was a first. Bluegills are customized fish for all because they are abundant, colorful, and eat anything they can fit into their mouths. Add a fly rod with a smiling kid attached to one end and a bright feather tied on the other for a recipe for cooking up an enjoyable day.

Where?
Before I go on, rest assured this is not a daunting task and is an angling option for all. To start with, the Piedmont region is an area that hosts many rivers and lakes. With that come excellent populations of thriving bluegills or bream. Bream is a generalized term for a variety of panfish such as sunfish, crappie and rock bass. You can fish from a dock, any shoreline or your pontoon boat, all with a fly rod.

When?
As water temperatures begin warming in early summer to above 68 or 70, say around the month of May, and continuing right thru the summer and early fall. Many veteran anglers feel the full moon periods in May thru August are best for bluegills particularly in shallow water due to spawning tendencies. Others like myself just look for craterlike beds in any water across the state.

Why a fly rod and a kid?
Anyone with kids knows the best days are usually active and fun-filled days. The fly rod is a very effective, active way to present a variety of Girls fly fishinginteresting lives to a very interested fish. By the way, did I mention there are no worms or crickets speared on a hook involved in fly-fishing? Rather than sitting quiet on a bank or watching a bobber, the fly rod experience involves exploring, looking and searching for fish. Once discovered, a fly is presented and often the strike is enticed by the angler thru gentle manipulations of the fly line. Essentially, your kids get to add the life-like movements to the fly resulting in sudden surprising strikes. Trust me, they love it and it happens often, which is a definite plus as well.

What you will need:
Fly fishing endeavors need to start simple, straightforward and remain especially fun for the kids above all. No doubt it is a lifetime sport requiring continued knowledge since many varieties of fly-fishing exist. But for beginners, especially kids, keep it simple. Tackle requirements do exist but the investment can start small. I strongly recommend going to a dealer specializing in fly-fishing versus a big box store. Not only will you get quality gear but instruction on rigging, casting and even places to go on your home waters.

Start by getting an 8-9 ft, 4-5 wt fly rod with a matching floating weight forward fly line and single action reel. A reel with a simple drag will suffice. A balanced outfit is key. There are some very good complete packaged outfits that will last a lifetime at modest prices. Again no box stores for this choice.

Along with your outfit you will purchase a few knotless leaders, 7.5-9 ft. in length, and a spool of 4x-5x tippett (thinnest part of leader). The leader connects to the fly line on its thicker end. Leaders look like regular fishing line and allow the fly line to cast the fly. Think of it as a bridge section.

A handful of flies (imitate natural food sources) will be effective. For kids fly selection is the best part. Pick a few that float like an Arcadia size 10-14 popper and a few that sink such as Wooly Bugger size 10-14 or a clouser minnow size 12-14. Very bright flies with rubber legs appeal to kids and bluegills alike. Just remember who is supposed to get hooked! You’ll need to learn basic casting motion. A good fly shop will put it all together for you plus a casting lesson in the parking lot. L.L. Bean guide to fly-fishing for $15 has great illustrations and is a great resource to use.

Finally, consider hiring a guide specializing in fly-fishing at least once. For $150/half day, you get on-the-water experience and learn tactics, tips and tricks to make the learning curve quite easy.

A Day on the Water
Bluegill are readily available in almost any body of clean water. Start your search with any piece of visible structure. Structure provides food, shade and protection for all types of warm water fish. This could include a sunken stump, downed tree, under boat docks or a rocky shoreline. Many of the small islands dotting our lakes are great hangouts to start. A quiet sheltered cove could be another hot spot.

Once you find a likely spot simply start by casting a popper close by the structure and just let it sit on the surface for a minute. Bluegills find this irresistible and will readily attack, often multiple times usually hooking themselves. If after a minute no strike occurs add a slight twitch or two, wait and recast if no strike occurs. Try different target areas and move around your lake avoiding muddy areas. If nothing happens on top, try your wooly bugger in the same spots. Kids like searching and casting which adds to the excitement. It also appeals to short attention spans. My own kids find spots by searching for turtles that sit on likely spots. If a stickup has a turtle on it, fish it.

Got One!
If bluegills weighed 5 lbs, I would be hard pressed to fish for trout or bass again. They pull hard, dart side to side and dash repeatedly. Tip: avoid slack line by keeping rod tip pointed at fly. When you hook a fish using a fly rod, simply pin the line against the cork handle and strip the line in towards you. For easy release, use barbless hooks and forceps.

Kid with first fishBring the camera
After your trophy catch (and size doesn’t matter for kids), be sure to snap a photo. Your child’s first fish is a classic shot that will be remembered. Now you see fly-fishing is not so mysterious. Next time you’re near the water, pack the fly gear and give it a whirl.

Carolinabonefishing.com is a fly fishing guide service owned and operated by Capt. Paul Rose located in Charlotte,NC. Paul offers a saltwater clinic using tailing carp on area lakes as a teaching tool for fly anglers out of a Hellsbay flats skiff. Other destinations include the NC mountains for trout and the Lowcountry for redfish. Paul is also a member of the Southeast Outdoor Press Association. Visit his website at carolinabonefishing.com or call 704-616-6662. For additional information or story ideas, email him at Paul@carolinabonefishing.com.