The amount of light penetrating into the water has a significant influence on sea fishing, although exactly how sea fish respond to the level of visibility in water remains unclear and much of what is known from an angling perspective comes from knowledge built up through trial and error. Generally fishing for species that are visual hunters (such as bass and pollock) is most effective when seas are clear and the lures used by anglers are at their most visible. However, as fish can sense movement and vibrations in the water through their lateral line it is still perfectly possible to catch these species on lures in murky and coloured water, in low light conditions and even at night. When it comes to bait fishing, darkness can often be more effective than fishing during daylight hours. This is because fish come into shallower water during the cover of darkness meaning that going fishing at night is the most productive time around much of the UK.
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 prove the most effective as the noises and splashes will help the fish locate the lure. There are no hard and fast rules about lure colours, and many anglers experiment with a range of different lure colours and types from different marks and in different sea conditions until they find the most effective combination.
Bright sunny weather is not usually the best for bait fishing from shallow water fishing marks. Such conditions will see creatures bottom-dwelling crabs, lobsters and prawns will hide away in rocks and weedbeds to avoid predators and larger fish which feed on the seabed may therefore move into deeper water out of the range of shore anglers to seek new sources of food there. This is not true of all species and some such as dogfish appear to happily seek out food during bright daylight hours, and notable large catches certainly have been made by anglers fishing on bright sunny days from relatively shallow locations. However, on balance bait fishing when the sun is shining is not as productive as during other times, and even an overcast day can see fish come closer into the shore leading to better catches. Marks such as piers, breakwaters and rock ledges which offer the opportunity to cast into deep water will also (usually) fish better than shallow beaches during daylight as less sunlight will reach the deeper water.
The time when the sun starts to set is believed to be a productive time for many species, especially bass. For this reason many anglers specifically target bass with lures when the sun begins to set, although other predatory species such as pollock and mackerel can also be caught at this time. Anglers planning on a fishing session which goes on into the night may also find it easier to arrive at the fishing mark at dusk and set up while there is still some light.
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, and small sea creatures which provide a source of food for larger fish will also start to emerge during darkness. Of course, it is still perfectly possible to catch decent sized fish during the day, but catches will generally be more consistent at night for species that 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 which allows them to track down sources of food.
Some species such as conger eel will feed at any time of the day or night in deep water but in shallower inshore waters they are nocturnal, spending the daytime hidden away in holes, crevices and gaps between rocks and coming out to feed once the sun has set. This means that most anglers targeting conger eels from the shore will only do so at night, unless they are fishing in very deep water. 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 for the first time during the day so that any potential hazards can be spotted and noted prior to fishing there at night.
- As stated above it is always best to arrive at a sea fishing mark during daylight 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. 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 various colours from Sea Angling Shop by clicking here. Cheap chemical light sticks can also be used – click here to a packet of five chemical light sticks for just 89p from Sea Angling Shop.
- 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 to do so. 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.