Have you ever considered kayak fishing at night?
In this article, we explore the pros and cons of taking your kayak out after dark, including some top tips on how to get the best out of it.
Is it safe?
Is it legal?!
Do you need lights?
And, perhaps most importantly, will you catch any fish?!
Read on and become illuminated.
Table of Contents
- Nighttime Kayak Fishing – Too Long, Didn’t Read
- Advantages of Night Kayak Fishing
- Night Kayak Fishing Challenges
- Safety Precautions for Kayak Fishing at Night
- Tips for Night Kayak Fishing
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Nighttime Kayak Fishing – Too Long, Didn’t Read
Although this is a fairly brief article, I recognize you might be in a hurry, and you’re for a quick summary of what’s contained herein.
First, let’s clear up the answers to those questions.
- Yes, kayak fishing at night is safe – with some caveats. We discuss safety precautions in detail below.
- Yes, kayak fishing at night is legal – again, with some caveats. This includes adequately lighting your boat in accordance with state laws, and carrying safety flares and a distress beacon if you’re offshore.
- Which answers our third question – yes, you need lights.
Finally, will you catch more fish?
Almost certainly. You’ll still need to use the right lures and techniques for the species you’re trying to catch, but for the most part, you stand a great chance of catching more critters at night.
Read on to find out more, including tips on what to bring with you, safety precautions, and the best time to go out.
But let’s take a look at why you would want to go kayak fishing at night in the first place!
Advantages of Night Kayak Fishing
You might be wondering what on earth would possess someone to go out kayak fishing at night.
Especially when you can’t even see anything!
But there are, in fact, several excellent reasons why you might try this thrilling side of the sport, and he’s a brief summary of why you should give nighttime kayak fishing a go:
Avoid the Crowds
Pleasuring boating, recreational kayakers, jet skis, speed boats, kids splashing about…the list can be endless when it comes to people disturbing your fishing time, and disturbing the fish.
In fact, the number one reason people give as an obstruction to fishing is that fishing spots are too crowded.
But that all melts away when you go out after dark – and even the bass boats won’t stay out much past midnight.
You’ll likely have the whole area to yourself – and there’s nothing quite like that feeling when fishing.
Avoid the Heat
On a hot summer’s day, with little to no cover, kayakers can be seriously exposed out on the water – even under a moderately cloudy sky.
The temperature drops to a more manageable level after the sun goes down, and I, for one, love that balmy range where it’s not too hot and not too cold.
I can function better, I have more energy, and I don’t feel like paddling back to shore to find the nearest air conditioning system.
And you don’t have to worry about those damaging UV rays, or slapping on an exorbitant amount of sunscreen.
Work Around Your Schedule
If it was up to me, I’d be out kayaking every minute I could – but that’s not always possible when life and other commitments get in the way.
Do you often feel like you’re a slave to the daily grind, with no time to go out fishing?
Kayak fishing at night could well be the solution you need. You don’t have to stick to daylight hours, and if you feel you’re always pressed for time, perhaps this is a way to open up your schedule a little.
An Exciting Challenge
Sometimes, it’s nice to push your boundaries, test your skills and resolve, and step outside your comfort zone.
The first time I tried kayak fishing at night, my heart was racing ten to the dozen, the adrenaline was pumping, and I felt an equal mix of elation and sprinkled with a dash of fear.
But in the end, it was one of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences of my life in fishing.
Kayak fishing at night offers a fresh, exciting challenge – and will make for fond memories for many years to come.
A Different Perspective
Did you know that catching fish isn’t the main reason why people fish in the first place?
According to their 2022 annual review, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation discovered that enjoying the sounds and smells of nature was the main draw for getting out on the water.
Now, imagine how unique and different that’s going to be if you go out at night!
One of the things I love about kayaking is the ability to go where most people will never go, and see things most people will never see.
Nighttime kayaking and kayak fishing takes that to another level.
And there’s nothing quite like fishing under a cloudless sky with minimal light pollution, and seeing the stars in all their glory.
Or fishing purely from the light of the moon – which is absolute bliss.
Improve Your Odds
We all dream of landing a monster of a trophy fish, but it always seems like the luck is with the other guy.
Try going back to the water when nobody else is around, and see how much that improves your odds.
And even if you don’t land the dream catch, you’re still going to give yourself a fighting chance of getting more bites – especially since you’ll probably be the only one out there!
Fish are less likely to spook at night, and they seem to be more relaxed in general, which will do nothing to hurt your chances of snagging a bite.
Night Kayak Fishing Challenges
Fishing at night poses several challenges to the kayak angler that you wouldn’t necessarily have during the day.
- Limited visibility and not being able to see long distances.
- Navigation and piloting a course.
- Negotiating obstacles and hazards in time.
To successfully conquer such challenges, it’s imperative you take the right safety precautions and bring the right gear along when kayak fishing at night.
Read on to find out what they are.
Safety Precautions for Kayak Fishing at Night
As with all types of kayaking and kayak fishing, you should be adhering to a set of basic safety precautions to keep yourself safe and your gear and equipment intact.
Plan Your Route/Location
Making a float plan is a key part of kayaking safely, but it’s even more vital and important when going out at night.
Make sure you’re avoiding any known hazards, such as weirs, and low-head dams, and stay away from shipping lanes, or anywhere there’s likely to be larger watercraft.
In this case, ships that pass in the night are a good thing.
They say you should never go kayak fishing alone – but that goes out the window for most kayak anglers.
Fishing solo is one of life’s greatest joys.
However, when you go out at night, I highly recommend you listen to that advice, and take a buddy along for extra safety.
You can each paddle your own kayak, or you can try using one of these awesome tandem fishing kayaks instead.
Either way, it’s an extra pair of eyes and ears to help keep the two of you safe, and for someone to go for help if there’s an emergency.
Light it Up
It’s imperative that you’re as visible as possible when you’re kayaking at night, and you’re legally obligated to adorn your craft with a US Coast Guard approved lighting system.
Something that is visible from 360-degrees is highly recommended. It needs to be unobstructed, so it should be taller than you and your gear, so you don’t accidentally block it from view.
The Visipole from YakAttack is an excellent option.
Handheld flashlights or headlamps are also fine if you’re on a budget, but you can also go wild with custom lighting rigs that attach to the bow, stern, and sides of your kayak if you so choose.
Try this article on the best bowfishing lights for some setup suggestions and inspiration.
But what about color?
The light you use for nighttime kayak angling needs to be white. Red and green sidelights might also be required – depending on local ordinance.
You can have other colors on your boat if you so choose, but in the eyes of the law and the US Coast Guard, at least one needs to shine a bright, white light.
You might also like to consider using reflective strips on your kayak as an extra safety precaution, as even with the weakest of beams, you’ll light up like a Christmas tree.
I would also recommend you check with kayaking regulations specific to your state or country, so you know exactly what is expected of you when it comes to correctly lighting your kayak for night fishing.
With the right lighting on your kayak – as well as reflective strips – you’re going to be even more visible than you would be during the day.
Which – to other water users at least – makes nighttime kayak fishing even safer than the daytime!
Wear the Right Clothing
The temperature can drop significantly when the sun goes down, so make sure you’re wearing adequate clothing.
In general, the right gear for kayak fishing is all about layering.
Check out our complete guide to what to wear when you’re on the water.
Remember, you should always dress for immersion – as it’s the water temperature that’s important, not the air temperature.
This guide to kayak fishing in winter will tell you more.
Wear an Accredited PFD
This almost goes without saying, yet still needs to be said all the time because some water users aren’t getting the message.
And in reported accidents and fatalities, as many as 75% of the cases were because the victim wasn’t wearing a PFD.
With many of them actually owning one!
Check out this review of the best fishing PFDs on the market – which offer practical storage options AND the potential to save your life.
Choose the Right Fishing Kayak
It’s important you have the right fishing kayak for the right situation, as accidents can happen when the wrong gear is used in certain circumstances.
And while there isn’t a dedicated “nighttime fishing kayak” currently on the market (yet), it’s still prudent to put a bit of thought into the craft you’re going to be using after dark – and where you’re going to be using it.
I would suggest looking for a kayak that is super stable, is brightly colored, has plenty of storage space, and is fully customizable.
Something like the Perception Outlaw 11.5 is ideal, or perhaps the Jackson Kayak Bite.
For a wider selection, check out this article on the best river fishing kayaks, and go here for fishing kayaks that are suitable for the ocean.
Alternatively, you can read our review of the very best fishing kayaks for 2023, and check out our full guide to choosing a fishing kayak, so you know exactly what to look for.
Pack the Right Safety Gear and Equipment
Aside from your all-important PFD, and your usual fishing tackle loadout, if you’re kayak fishing at night, you should pack some additional safety gear and equipment.
As I always say – I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Consider bringing along the following items:
- For coastal waters, you need flares and an electric distress light for boats.
- A good safety whistle.
- A VHF radio – make sure you know how to use it and the batteries are charged.
- A GPS device, or a kayak fish finder that has one built-in. Follow those links for some great options.
- Flashlight or headlamp. Check out this article on the best fishing headlamps on the market.
- First aid kit.
- A water bottle – staying hydrated is still important at night.
- Snacks and other eats – be sure to keep your energy up.
And for a more general guide to kayak fishing accessories, check out that link.
Mark Your Launch Point
For additional peace-of-mind, a great tip is to mark the location you put-in using a fluorescent flag or reflective tape.
Attach it high enough so that it’s easy to see, but not too high so that the moon or bright stars might make it difficult to spot.
When you return, you’ll be able to easily find your put-in point, rather than searching the dark bank or shoreline for where you’ve parked your vehicle.
Slow it Down and Pay Attention
If it’s cloudy, you’re not going to be able to see very far, and you’ll have a shorter reaction time to any hazards and obstacles that are not lit up.
That’s why it’s important you take your time when kayak fishing at night – particularly when you’re traveling.
Slow your paddle or pedal stroke right down, and keep your head up. Be present in the moment, and be aware of everything that’s going on around you.
Stay off the Booze
You might be tempted to crack a few cold ones when going out at night, and get the party started while you’re on the water.
I highly recommend you put a pin in that plan until you’re back at the bar, telling some tall tales of the trophy fish you successfully (and safely) caught.
Much like when we’re operating most vehicles and machinery, alcohol and drugs don’t mix well with kayaking. And the fact that it’s going to be dark only adds some more fuel to an already potentially dangerous fire.
And speaking of, is kayak fishing dangerous?
It can be. Follow that link to find out more – including some top tips for staying safe out on the water.
Tips for Night Kayak Fishing
Below, you’ll find some additional tips, tricks, and advice for helping you have a successful nighttime kayak fishing adventure.
- The best time to go out is about one hour after it gets dark, but it’s preferable to launch when there’s still some light in the sky.
- The best locations for nighttime kayak fishing are actually areas with a little light. This includes places like docks, jetties, sea walls, and bridges.
- Lights attract plankton, baitfish, and shrimp – which in turn attract species that are higher up the food chain – including YOU!
- Keep noise to an absolute minimum. Sound is louder at night because the air is cooler, and the same can be said for colder waters. Use a good stand-up fishing kayak with EVA decking to dampen any racket.
- The best species to hunt for at night include catfish, snook, snapper, walleye, striped bass, speckled trout, grouper, flounder, and more.
- Fishing with live bait is the best way to catch hungry critters who are looking for a midnight snack.
- For bass, try using buzzbaits and spinnerbaits as they don’t see very well in the dark.
- Use a good kayak anchor to keep yourself in one position – especially if you want to fish close to the lighted areas listed above.
Finally, you can follow this link for more general tips for fishing at night, most of which will translate easily to kayak fishing.
And you can also watch the video below for some more top tips, and several reasons why kayak fishing at night is not to be missed!
Kayak fishing at night can be one of the most rewarding and thrilling aspects of the sport, and I heartily recommend you give it a try.
Just make sure to follow some basic safety precautions, and use your common sense, and you should have an exciting experience.
Stay safe out there, tight lines, and happy kayak fishing!