The amount of light penetrating into the water has an significant influence on sea fishing. Species which are visual hunters such as bass or pollock may feed well on sunny days with clear seas. The opposite is true of other species such as cod which may stay in deeper offshore water in clear daylight conditions and only come in close under the cover of darkness. Sight is only one way which fish use to feed. Fish species found around the UK can use their powerful sense of smell to find food through scent, while fish can also feel the vibration and movement of prey through their lateral line and other sensory organs. This means that fish are more than capable of locating food sources in total darkness and explains why night fishing can be so productive.
Clear waters and bright sunshine can be good conditions for lure fishing as spinners and plugs will be at their maximum visibility to the fish. Many anglers spinning for bass experiment with different lures depending on the colour of the water, and often a bright silver lure works well in bright conditions as it is the most visible to the fish. A black lure may also work well as it will be silhouetted against the sky to fish attacking it from below. In coloured or murky water plugs which incorporate a rattle or splash to imitate an injured fish may work best as the noises and splashes will help the fish locate the lure. Of course there are no exact rules over which colour lure works well, and no one knows for sure which colour of lure or plug works in which conditions. However, through trial and error most experienced anglers will have worked out which colour of lure to use to catch fish depending on the conditions.
When it comes to bait fishing species such as dogfish are not put off by bright skies and clear waters and will happily take a bait in these conditions. However, clear skies and bright sun will more than likely see larger fish further away from the shore – possibly because bottom dwelling crabs, lobsters and small fish feel more vulnerable in these conditions and therefore hide away or seek out deeper (and darker) water. Even an overcast day can see fish come closer into the shore, and catches can be higher in these conditions than during a bright sunny day. Places such as piers, breakwaters and rock marks that offer the opportunity to cast into deep water will also (usually) fish better than shallow beaches during daylight. Dusk and dawn are seen as the key times for bass to feed and so planning a fishing session around these times increases the chances of catching this species.
Many sea fishing venues across the UK produce better catches for anglers once the sun has gone down. This is because fish spend daylight hours in deeper water away from the shore, but feel less vulnerable during darkness and therefore swim and feed in shallower water. Of course it is still perfectly possibly to catch decent sized fish during the day, but catches will generally be more consistent at night for species which scour the seabed looking for food such as cod, whiting and many species of flatfish, especially Dover sole. These species are highly adapted to feed in even complete darkness using their highly developed sense of smell which can pick up the faintest traces of scent from sources of food.
Some species such as conger eel will feed at any time of the day or night in deep water. However, in shallower inshore waters they are nocturnal, spending the daytime hidden away in holes and crevices within rock and coming out to feed once the sun has set. Other species such as bull huss are also known to feed more at night, and even mini-species such as the small but venomous weever fish spend the day buried into the sand but emerge to hunt for prawns and fish fry once dusk approaches. Anglers will also talk about the water being coloured (with sediment or mud) and this generally benefits bait fishing as it creates conditions similar to darkness. As stated, a cloudy or overcast day will usually produce better catches than a clear, sunny day as the absence of bright sunlight will lead to the fish moving into shallower water.
Planning a Night Fishing Session
Fishing at night can be dangerous. It is best to fish a new mark in the first time during the day so that any potential hazards can be spotted and noted prior to fishing there at night.
- It is always best to arrive at a sea fishing mark when it is still light in order to set up while there is still natural light present.
- Obviously sufficient light is needed for any night fishing session. Most anglers take an LED headlamp as this keeps the hands free while lighting up the area the angler is looking at. The Zebco 17-LED Head Lamp is ideal for anglers as a main head lamp, while the smaller and cheaper Micro Head Lamp is a good cheaper alternative with can be used as a back-up. LED lanterns are also useful for providing light to the area where and angler is fishing, click here to view.
- Lights for rod tips are also essential – it can be near-impossible to see bites without these type of lights. Delta Rod Lights are widely used by UK sea anglers and can be bought in red or blue by clicking here, while cheap chemical light sticks can also be used – click here to buy a packet of five Ocean Sun Chemical Light Sticks for only 89p.
- Anglers need to make sure that the clothing they wear for a fishing session keeps them sufficiently warm. Some types of fishing, such as winter night fishing for cod can be bitterly cold. Look at the sea fishing clothing section of this website for clothes for winter night fishing – getting hypothermia while at a remote rock mark is not a situation no angler ever wants to be in!
- Some anglers do not like casting with a multiplier reel at night as they cannot see the lead flying through the air or making impact with the water and the chances of getting a bird’s nest therefore increase. The only way to avoid this is to practice during the day and only attempt night fishing with a multiplier once the confidence is high enough. With practice using a multiplier reel at night becomes as easy as using one during the day.
More advice on sea fishing safety and information on related issues such as tides, clothing and equipment can be found on the page on Sea Fishing Safety.