There’s Something About the Night

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Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on There’s Something About the Night

Growing up in Tampa, as a kid I would spend countless hours fishing or snatch hooking for mullet in the Hillsborough River. Riding my bicycle, at dark to the bridge at Sligh Avenue I would join others fishing the lights from the bridge. I especially enjoyed watching these anglers with long cane poles catching snook. Using a long, powerful, cane pole, rigged with 36 inches of heavy braid line, and a Dalton Special they leaned over the bridge railing and worked a figure 8-pattern around the pilings.dsc00555

Never a bashful kid and always inquisitive, I asked, this tall, lean fellow with a scraggly beard, named Chuck, if he would teach me to fish that way. Hauling a nice fish over the rail he replied, “Sure, do you have a pole?” “No,” I replied, “But I will tomorrow, can you help me rig it?” ‘Yea, I’ll help you it shouldn’t take long to get you set up.” Chuck seemed to catch more fish so I figured, I might as well learn from the best. Besides, he always kidded me saying, “Boy, you can’t catch anything with that snatch hook.” However, leaving the bridge with four or five mullet each night I soon made him a believer.

The following day after school, I went to my neighbor Mr. Davis. A unique man who loved fishing Mr. Davis made his own cane poles from bamboo growing in his yard and had just the ticket. Handing me the perfect cane pole, he yelled, “Save some for me”, as I crossed the street. Later, when dad came home from work, he gave me some heavy Dacron line and an old Dalton Silver Flash lure.

Unable to wait, I headed to the bridge early. Chuck was already there and together we rigged my outfit. He told me to hang over the rail and work the lure like him. It took some practice but watching him, I quickly got the hang of it. After awhile, I realized why he often sat down, leaned against the concrete, and smoked a cigarette. This leaning over the rail kills your back.

Sitting together one night, I asked, “What do they call this kind of fishing.” He looked over saying, “Snook.” I retorted with, “No, I mean”… then smiling he said, “I know what you mean kid, we call it “swishing.” The name fit because that is what you did… swish the lure. Soon we started catching fish, laughing together and having a ball… night fishing for Snook. Occasionally, I think back to those years, the good times and wonder what became of the Chuck’s in our lives who took time to teach us.

Regardless of the name, it was and probably still is an effective way to catch snook at night. “Swishing” a simple technique requiring inexpensive tackle, some back muscles and a willingness to try something different. Just bend over a bridge railing, point the pole down toward the water and work the lure around the pilings and fenders.

I cannot remember the last time I saw anyone swishing from a bridge. However, because they are not bridge fishing does not mean they are not fishing at night. Many choose the nighttime especially during the hot Florida summers. Those doing the night thing have stumbled on something great, that others may never experience.

So, what is night fishing and where do you fish? Simply, it is fishing in the dark, mostly around structure and docks with lights. Many docks have security lights, which draw bait and bait draws fish. Inter-coastal bridges and docks also create a tidal eddy, congregate baits, and provide easy meals for Snook, Reds, Trout, Sheepshead, or just about anything, that swims.

Fishing at night requires planning, so never load up without being prepared… remember everything looks different at night.

1. Learn the area during daylight
2. Identify shallow areas and obstructions
3. Know which canals and channels lead where
4. Use a GPS whenever possible

Here is another tip that works with a GPS. These units feature something called “Trail” that leaves a start to finish line on your map. Whenever you plan at night trip, use the trial feature during the day marking the areas you intend to fish. Then when you return at dark… just follow the trails.

Night fishing is exciting with strikes coming hard and fast. Needing every advantage, your tackle needs enough power to turn fish heading for cover. Many anglers often choose medium to heavy spinning or bait casting tackle rigged with braid ranging from 30 to 40 pound on spinning reels and 50 to 65 pound on baitcasters with 12 to 14 inches of 30 to 40 pound fluorocarbon leader. For added excitement try artificial lures especially topwater and shallow divers, take more than one because you will lose some before it is over.

The optimum word for night fishing is… “Quiet”!

Nighttime is the quiet, pristine part of the day with almost everything resting or sleeping. Fish holding to docks and bridges become acclimated to this fact and sudden noises or commotion will send them running.

Study your targets for shadows in and around lighted areas, you often see fish darting in and out feeding on passing bait. Gently make your approach using a trolling motor, drifting or poling into position and remember not to close just within casting range. Patience is an asset giving you time to identify feeding patterns and current direction. Always present your bait or lure in the direction of the current since fish face current and anything coming from behind can scare them.

Here is a final thought on night fishing especially around residential docks. “Courtesy and Respect for others and their property”… Not everyone is nocturnal staying up all hours of the night. Remember, folks are sleeping and probably could care less that you caught a 20-pound snook, keep the cheering and hoorays down. Quietly take your photos, return it to the water and relish the memories.

This article is owned by Capt. Woody Gore and is copyright protected. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by Capt. Gore. wgore@ix.netcom.com