Expert Fishing Advice for Saltwater Anglers

Saltwater Fishing In The Dark – What to Expect and How to Prepare


As you can imagine, we get A LOT of great questions about ocean fishing here at Gottemondood. One subject that garners a lot of interest and questions is - Ocean Fishing at Night. Here's a summary of the best and most frequent questions. We'll provide even more detailed answers to some of these questions in separate posts, but the information provided below should answer most of your questions about Ocean Fishing at Night:

Can you go Deep Sea Fishing at Night? 

Yes, you can go deep-sea fishing at night. Deep-sea fishing at night is incredible, but its unique challenges require extra planning and safety precautions. It's definitely not for everyone. It's a totally different fishing experience.

Fishing at night has a lot of advantages that include leaving sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats at home. The temperature is cooler, the ocean calm, and aside from your targets, you will essentially have the whole ocean to yourself. Depending upon your location, it can be as pitch black and quiet as the inside of a coffin. On a night when the sky has no clouds, it can seem like you can reach up and touch the stars - it's genuinely like nothing you've ever seen.


 What is the Biggest Difference When Fishing at Night?


The most obvious difference is the darkness. It puts that saying about "things you can do in your sleep" to the test. You simply will not be able to see or do all of the things you can during the daylight hours as quickly or efficiently - unless you have extra illumination. Thanks to great LED lights, illuminating your work areas, decks, and even the water has never been easier or more affordable. You can almost light the area like it's daytime. We like to create moveable "light bars," but we have so many now that they usually stay pretty stationary. We are huge fans of Side Shooter LED lights. They're affordable, versatile, and light our workspaces and decks like it's daytime. Here are some excellent ones we use. Of course, you'll need to pick the right ones for your specific budget and needs:

What Additional Gear or Equipment is Needed When Fishing at Night?


Set up as much of your gear as possible before leaving the dock. Ensure the vital and essential pieces of equipment are checked, inventoried, and positioned in easy to retrieve locations. This will make your life so much easier when trying to find a particular rig or tool in the dark. Also, please read or review our article “Offshore Fishing Day Preparedness.” 

Having extra rods, reels and rigs is a must. Untangling lines, knots and snags are nuisance enough in the daylight - when it’s pitch-black, it can be nearly impossible. So, set up extra rods, reels, and rigs. You can even pre-rig them. When it’s dark and maybe even a little cold, the last thing you want is to set up intricate rigs. 

The same goes for essential pieces of gear you have in your tackle box like knives, pliers, & scissors. Having spare tools on hand will make things easier when something vanishes in the dark. Though you’re sure to find it when the sun breaks, it’s better to have it in your hand when you need it. So again, we keep these tools in our fishing life jackets or fishing belts.

Last, we use LED headlamps when fishing at night. They are incredibly bright and lifesavers when working on tackle and rigs; they help save your vessel’s battery during the long night. Here are the ones we use. They’ve been incredibly reliable, and they’re waterproof. Speaking of batteries, bring some extra batteries for anything that relies on them. 


As detailed above, you'll want to illuminate your workspaces and decks as much as possible. Additionally, you'll want to light the water to attract baitfish. Specific colored lighting can be used very effectively to lure particular types of baitfish and their associated predator targets. The best color light to attract fish is a true green color at approximately the 520 nm wavelength. Only LED lights are capable of achieving this true green color. We'll do a more detailed and exhaustive explanation in an upcoming article. Below are some of our favorite lights for nighttime ocean fishing.


Fishing in the dark demands that you "go above and beyond" in your boating safety prep and planning. Before we leave the dock, we review our safety plan. This includes establishing a buddy system and watch schedule. There must always be at least two anglers on deck and ready - looking out for one another.

We require everyone to wear life jackets with LED beacons and safety whistles, just in case someone goes overboard. We also use reflective strips on our jackets. We really like kayaking life jackets. They are incredibly well built, quite comfortable, and contain easy to retrieve storage pockets for the things we prefer to have close at hand. We ensure that every life jacket has a safety whistle, LED beacon, reflective tape, and a LifeStraw attached. Here are some of the items that we use for extra safety:


Staying up late at night to fish is both physically and mentally draining. If you are not accustomed to keeping these hours, it can be physically painful to try to stay awake and alert. Having a great night’s sleep the previous evening will help immensely.

Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Avoid alcoholic beverages. They will dehydrate you, and once the effects have started to wear off, you’ll feel like a clam. Absolutely have designated drivers and buddies if anyone will be consuming alcoholic beverages. Adhere to a watch schedule that allows some of your companions to nap while the others stay alert.

It can get quite cool and even cold on the water during the warm summer months after the sun has gone down. Layering your clothing is the best way to keep warm and comfortable, especially if the temperature drops at night. Multiple thin layers are better than one thicker layer. This allows you to add or peel away clothing with the changing temperatures.

What Fish do you Target when Fishing at Night?

Another big difference when fishing at night is the different fish species that you target. The active and feeding fish at night tend to be different and are often associated with game fishing. There are quite a few trophy fish that will bite better at night. For example, if you are fishing off in Florida or the Caribbean, you've got a good chance of angling predator species like snappers, sharks, and barracuda. For example, in Key West, the Mangrove Snapper is widely deemed THE best-eating fish in the ocean! 

Several factors will influence the behavior of your targets during different times of the night. In warmer climates, prized game fish feed aggressively during the night's first half (around 8pm-3am). They are closer to shore, so night fishing is an excellent opportunity to get in on the action. The action will slow down as the night turns into the early morning, and the water temperatures drop. Fewer fish feed heavily in cooler climates and in the winter months, and even fewer choose to do so in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, you can still occasionally catch fish during these times. 

Where are the Best Places to Go when Fishing at Night?


The best locations to fish at night are where the night predators feed. Though there's still a wide variety of night-feeding fish species, the choices are drastically smaller than your daytime options. So, you'll want to pick the species you wish to target and then identify the best locales for where your selected fish targets like to feed. 

Before heading out to a new fishing location during the night, be safe and scout it out during the daytime. Take note of the tides and the area of any potential hazards. This allows you to avoid snags, hazards, sandbars, weed beds, and rocks. As a result, you'll be better prepared to safely get to your fishing location and know what to look for, especially when the visibility is poor. 

Set up your base camp above the high tide mark if you stay close to shore. You'll typically know where the high tide reaches by looking at the previous tide lines and the debris deposited on the beach. Be mindful of the tides' ebb and flow if you plan to set up base camp anywhere close to shore. Note that spring tides tend to push further up the beach in some areas and even more so when there are strong onshore winds. 

How Do You Catch Fish at Night?

When you are doing your pre-planning, match your bait/lures as best you can to the baitfish you'll find in the area where you plan to fish. Predator species, especially those more prevalent at night, are experts in identifying their prey's silhouettes. Therefore, the more the outlines of your lure(s) or baits match the baitfish in the area, the greater the chances you'll be yelling - Gottemondood!


You might not think it, but fish don't necessarily need to see your bait to be attracted to it. Many fish species rely less on vision to locate their prey, emphasizing scent, motion/vibrations, and sound. Therefore, the smell, action, shape, and size of bait are far more important than almost anything else, especially when you're fishing after sunset. 


Similarly, if you are going to use lures, the action, shape, and size are critical when fishing after sunset. But, again, fish are incredibly adept at tracking these movements and vibrations back to the source.

Dark-colored lures are effective both in the daytime and at night. A dark-colored lure is easier to see from below - especially in contrast to a green light in the water. Conversely, lures lighter in color are more difficult to distinguish, making them harder to be seen. 

Glow In the dark lures - A small amount of glow-in-the-dark paint for eyes or a few spots on the side can draw attention to lures. However, they look out of place when made entirely from glow-in-the-dark materials and will probably repel fish unless you're in some bottomless water where you would find luminescent baitfish.


With little to no light, spotting a bite can be challenging. Fishing glow sticks are made to be put on the end of your rod to make it easier for you to spot a bite. You can also paint the tip with white paint or even a "liquid white eraser" from your office. 

If you want that high-tech option, get a "rod alarm" that detects movement in the line and sounds an alarm when a bite is detected. Whatever you choose, make sure your rod tip is within your line of sight so you don't have to stare at it constantly. Yes, it's uncomfortable, and it can also cause neck and shoulder cramps. 

Final Thoughts

Night ocean fishing can be tons of fun. It's a totally unique fishing experience. You'll drastically increase your odds of having fun, staying safe and catching fish by doing some extra planning and preparation, as detailed above. We hope this helps you yell -GOTTEMONDOOD!


Matt Spector

Over the last 25 years, Captain Matt Spector has established himself as an expert fisherman and Captain. He's taught thousands how to be safer, smarter, more efficient anglers! There's simply nothing more satisfying than sharing a lesson, recommendation or tip that helps another angler be able to yell...GottemonDood!

Captain Matt

Recommended for You

Book Your Gottemondood Fishing Charter

Can't wait to see you!