Nighttime is Striper Time E-mail
Saturday, 04 June 2011 06:27

I am sure many people can make a case that other species of fish are better nighttime game fish than striped bass, maybe tarpon or snook but to my knowledge there are no other fish that offers the kayak fishing potential of stripers.  What makes them so perfect for the nighttime kayak angler? First, even though they can eat all day, they’re more of a nocturnal feeder – especially the larger fish. Summer in particular is a great time to chase these fish, in most of the northeast, the summer temperatures can make kayak fishing brutal during daylight hours, these air temps also can bring the water up to levels that make stripers travel into deeper and cooler waters. Just as the early spring has stripers seeking out the shallows for warmer waters, the summer offers the reverse, where the fish are looking for the cooler nighttime water temps.  Water temps aside, the main reason why the fish head into these skinnier waters is because that is where the bait is and the darkness provides a better chance of ambushing it.  These are all good things to the kayak angler who can use his craft to get into tight spots and get away from the powerboats.

Night fishing

Not only do you have accommodating fish but consider being able to get out of the daytime heat and the usually lighter nighttime winds make for a perfect kayak fishing plan to exact after the sun goes down.

I could spend this entire article to go into the many places I found fish at night, places that one would believe are too skinny or just not “fishy” but yet have produced many fish for me – many of these places have never yielded a fish during daylight hours but after dark the dynamics change and fish just show up to feed like a dinner bell went off. I have also been amazed at how you can basically paddle or pedal up to them with such stealth that you can just about make contact with them with the kayak before they spook.

Using the kayak to wade fish

Game Plan: When I first got into kayak fishing, I worked during the day and fished during the night, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week – I was a maniac. I would launch just at sundown and fish until like 1am or about. I liked to make my journey during the daylight and be set up in the spot I wanted to fish when the sun went down.  One observation I have made is that first hour of darkness almost always was non productive, I have heard from guys who are better fisherman than me say that the fish need to get used to the darkness before they forage for food.  The flip side of that the time right before the sun goes down, can be magic and has produced some big stripers.

I have also planned my trips to be on the water to fish sunrise to end a nighttime outing. This can also be great time, as fish tend to feed aggressively during first light.

I would never fish any place at night that I have not fished during the day and was fairly familiar with.  I have a couple experiences of not heeding to this advice and I got into a problem, once in Cape Cod, I got so lost that my GPS couldn’t get me back due to the path back being blocked by marshes that only show during the low tide, I had to drag my kayak over these marshes a couple hundred yards to get to the main channel and eventually back to the launch. It is a very good idea to have fished the same exact tide during that light that you planning on fishing in the dark. I stated earlier that the lack of power boats out there as being a good thing but remember if something goes wrong you might miss that the traffic. I strongly suggest fishing with a partner at night, I have not always followed this rule, but I guess I am getting older and hopefully wiser, I now enjoy the company and it is comforting to know if something should go wrong that I have will help.

night striped bass

I like to plan my trips around the stronger tides of moon (full and new), the darker new moon is a particular favorite of mind in the summer. I am not as much of a fan of fan of the full moon as I believe it mimics daylight and can hurt the fishing, a couple days before or after usually is a good time.  These moon tides can produce waters flows that are 20% more than other times. You should take advantage of them.  The 2nd and 3rd hours of the tide produces the most flow and should be fished hard.  Summers moon tides also give way to worm hatches and other bait events that can make for spectacular striper fishing.  The stronger tides of the moon can last a couple days before and couple days after the actually full or new moon.

While fishing at night I really try to take advantage of the calm and quiet to locate fish, I pay close attention to water and slick calm nights you can hear feeding fishing from far away. I also use any opportunity when given to kayak in waters of 1 to 2 feet so if I go over any fish they will leave a wake or a swirl that I can see – I then know the area has fish and I can hit it hard then or another time when fish have settled back in.

Equipment: I would say the most important piece of equipment is a good L.E.D headlamp, I like ones that had some different beams and brightness settings. I also recommend one that is waterproof, there are many on the market and these and are relatively cheap, I have got into the habit of carrying a backup because without a headlamp, a night trip can be spoiled.

A headlamp makes you technically compliant with Coast Guard regulations but to make sure you are really seen on the water, your kayak should be equipped with some kind of running (white) light that can be seen for 360 degrees.  I just started using made by Yak-Attack called the Visi-Pole, its breaks down easy and comes with multiple mounting options.  I caution against using navigation lights like you see on powerboats, these might actually confuse boaters on the water into thinking you are following the channel navigation.

Of course you should always have your cell phone (in a drybag) in case of emergencies. When it comes to clothing I always bring extra and use clothing to keep me dry, even a hot and steamy summer night can give you a chill if a little wind kicks up or you get a bit wet.

Techniques: One of the smartest things I ever heard about fishing is that “all fishing knowledge is local”, in other words there is no one lure, bait, or technique that works everyplace. Over the years I have striper fished many places and some things just plain work better in some areas, while they wont produce a fish in others.  I remember once being up at a tackle shop on Block Island and the shop was lined with needlefish plugs – a plug that I never caught a fish on and had absolutely no confidence with but the shop said it is the lure of choice on the Island – I ignored this advice and I went to my go-to plugs that night and only had one fish while my buddy got fish after fish on needle plugs. Lesson learned!

I feel that fishing for stripers at night is more about the fish sensing vibrations and movements in the water and less about colors and seeing the lure as it is in the daytime. As much as I don’t like to use plugs at night because of multiple treble hooks I take great care when unhooking fish and always opt to use a lip gripper to aid in the release. Some of my favorites are Black Mambo Minnows, Long-A Bomber and the Cotton Cordell Redfin (I especially like this plug on calm nights because it swims on the surface and leaves a great v-wake).

nightjbay2

Plastics and bucktails also have a place, I like using Storm Wild-Eyes and  Slug-Go’s. This year I started to use Hogy soft plastics and found to be some of the best new lures out there, at night I really love the 10” pre rigged tandem (2 hooks) in black. These fished slow with just little twitches seem to produce ferocious strikes. Bucktails have been fished at night by striper anglers since…..well since people have been angling for stripers. I like to use a “sweetener” on the back, something like a pork rind or some Gulp to put some scent in the water.

I don’t think I could talk about striper kayak fishing at night without mentioning the Tube and Worm; it just works, anytime, anyplace. It is not my favorite way to fish because it involves trolling as opposed to casting but it is deadly and if you want to catch fish, it should be utilized. I also have done eeling off the kayak and this can be a very effective and I would consider it a great way to target big fish. Trolling eels super slow with the reel on free-spool is a great way to get a nighttime cow.

Night fishing for stripers can be very rewarding but should be approached with caution and common sense. For me, there is something special about kayak fishing when the sun goes down and having the water to yourself and your passion.

 

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