A Comparison of Night Bites
Here, in the central valley of California temperatures can reach 115 degrees and stay there for days. How do you bring yourself to fish in that weather? You don’t, you wait till its cooler. The night time temperatures might not bring the sweater out of the closet but 89 degrees sure feels better than 110 or above.
I recently went on three night fishing trips. The first one was during a full moon on Lake Kaweah. The second was to Lake Success with a half moon and the final one was to Pine Flat Lake during a new moon. Now, we all know that lakes fish differently, so each one of these will have a bit of variance due to the lake and the slight weather pattern change between the trips. On the all and all they are comparable and should give you an idea of what to try on your next or first trip out night fishing.
Just like early morning, the dusk bite can be great for top water action. I tied up four separate top water rods for the trip to Lake Kaweah. First was a Zara Spook, then a River 2 Sea Whopper Plopper, a Buzzbait and a Snag Proof Bobby’s Perfect frog. Next I tied on an LBS Tackle Scarecrow jig and a Pro Worms Purple Death 8 inch Worm. The final weapons of choice were two crankbaits of varying depth range, a ten foot and a fifteen foot diver. Conditions at the lake were as such; water levels on the decline, small cold front, ten mile per hour winds and a full moon that had been up since 3 pm. My first challenge is to find the structure that the fish would be using during these conditions. This is where night time can be a real disadvantage but it’s a great time to learn to use your electronics. I started on a wall known for rock piles close to the surface, this makes for a great ambush area. I Pulled out the Whopper Plopper and started covering water. I switched between the Plopper and the frog when I got near brush so as to have a more focused presentation. After an hour of no bites I decided to switch to the crankbaits. A half hour of switching between deep and shallow and I gave up and went to the bottom. This night was turning out to be not so good. For the next three hours I switched between top water, worms and jigs. One fish finally took the 8 inch Pro Worm in Purple Death it was a 4.57 pound largemouth but only one for the trip.
The next trip I took was to Lake Success, this was a night when we had waning crescent moon that didn’t rise till nearly 11pm. We arrived around 8pm; the sun was an hour from setting. The first stop was at some flooded willow bushes, unlike Kaweah the water was on the rise at Success. I used a frog and a Whopper Plopper to pick apart the brush. Three blow ups were all that I could get. So, I decided to head to a long point with a drop off on one side. It was 2feet deep on top of the point and forty feet deep in the saddle. Almost instantly the screen started reading fish on the bottom. I took out my LBS Tackle jig in Scarecrow and started casting into ten feet of water and hoping it down the ledge. Tap, I set the hook, I can’t hardly move the fish, it’s a giant. I fought the fish for another three minutes and then the line goes limp. The line didn’t break the hook just pulled out, for the next hour I hopped and drug that jig everywhere on that saddle no more takers. It was time to go finesse fishing so I broke out the ABU Garcia drop shot rod and my Pro Worms in Green Weenie and proceeded to load the boat. Nothing big, two pounders were the biggest of the night but I caught around 15 fish.
The third trip was a to Pine Flat lake, it was to fish a small jackpot tournament about ten boats. There would be a new moon this night so we brought lights. We arrived at 6pm and checked in; I started the night by running to the mouth of the river. I had only fished this lake once before, not knowing it well I decided to listen to some local knowledge. What the local knowledge negated to mention was that the lake water level was falling very rapidly, (a few feet a day). So, the fish that had been in the trees, no longer had trees to be in. I decided to run back down to some areas that looked very fishy to me, small pockets with deep water access. I noticed a couple fish bust the surface, so I tied on a Pop-R and started casting, about three casts in I boated my first top water fish of the night. That would be the only top water fish for me of the night. This was going to be a short tournament, so I decided to skip all the different levels and focus on the bottom. Jigs, Drop shots and Senkos and all produced mostly the Senkos and the Drop shots. I found a unique pattern that night, if I was fishing up the river the fish wanted Senkos in small pockets near deep water, if I was on the main lake they were eating Drop Shoted Pro Worms on steep clay walls. The tournament was won with a twelve pound sack. We were only able to put 7.5 pounds in the boat, (that was what the majority had).
Night fishing can be fun it is also very challenging. I think it really helps hone your skills, since you have to pay attention to what you’re doing. You have to feel your bites, read your graph and position your boat all without sun light to help guide you. These trips all taught me something different; mostly I learned that night fishing is all about structure. If you find good ambush areas the fish will be there and they won’t be shy. The cover of darkness gives them the edge over the bait and if they’re hungry, they will eat. I also figured out that fish at night still want natural colors; all three of these lakes had clear water and if I threw a chartreuse or yellow color it was a no go, as soon as I switched back to natural browns and greens they were eating. Last but not least buy yourself a good headlamp it sure makes tying knots easier. So, the next time the thermometer reads 100+ think about waiting till its dark before you hit the water, you just might be surprised by what you catch.
See ya out there,
James “Big Ed” Everhart