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Nighttime can be prime time for fishing action

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Jul 8, 2022

I’m hardly a fan of our daytime summer steam bath but knowing that the hot weather period brings the hottest multi-species fishing of the year, I always find a way to cope. For me nighttime is the right time to fish for all my favorite hot weather Southwest Florida species. Inshore or offshore, the fish seem to agree.

It’s obviously cooler for us and there’s no fish frightening boat traffic and noise. It’s been well documented that in areas of heavy daytime boat and concentrated angling pressure, some species adapt by strictly making a living on the nightshift.

There’s also little or no competition for “hot spots” as nationwide the majority of freshwater and saltwater anglers simply don’t night fish. That’s fine by me as I enjoy the peace and quiet till the after dark action turns on.

Another plus is near zero frustration caused by boat ramp madness. There’s also far less rude day boaters, who are simply unaware and often dangerous to themselves and others boaters, and those that you truly wonder how they even managed to drive a vehicle to the ramp, then actually get a boat in the water.

Lethargic heat-stressed daytime fish not keen on chasing or even eating are turned on by a few degree drop in water temperatures that typically starts with the afternoon rains that slightly cool and oxygenate the water before the sun sets adding to the comfortable cooling effect.

Do all of the local species bite at night? Overall, I would have to say yes although some are built for it better than others. Look at the huge, light- gathering night vision lenses of many baitfish species like ladyfish or huge gamefish eyes that tarpon come equipped with. Night is also prime time for shark fishing.

Ever have “perfect” daytime fishing conditions but completely strike out and just can’t figure out? Fishing an inshore daytime bite on a cloudless sky day during a full moon period is often frustrating as the fishes’ stomachs are often full from their last night’s feeding. I’m not saying stay home but it can often be tough fishing. Stay cool during the day and enjoy the nighttime bite like the fish do!

Another well-known night biter, the common snook, like Earl, the legendary 50 incher that lives under the Matlacha Bridge, that can tell the difference between a 12 or 24 volt MotorGuide or MinnKota from 50 yards away just by the motor’s hum, are much less wary at night, more comfortable and prone to feeding and, hopefully, chowing down on your favorite topwater lure or 15-inch live mullet. If you’re really serious about catching a local true trophy sized linesider, fish big baits at night.

I wait all year to fish the exciting summer tarpon night bite. Be it intently watching a float connected to a big hooked mullet or ladyfish swimming below it or better, casting big soft plastics from the deck of a skiff around local bridges, is definitely my favorite and most exciting local fishing. There’s something very special about the cool quietness of the night, the slow turning of the reel’s handle, then a sudden strike 25 feet from the deck as a 100-pound-plus night fighter inhales your lure, takes to the sky then comes crashing back to the surface. If that doesn’t excite you, try another sport.

Offshore the story’s the same, relief from the burning sun and often a super-hot bite. Some transom lighting and chum gets the party started for many reef dwelling species like snapper and many others.

Now we know that most fish will respond at night, so what’s the downside? Boater safety! The number one rule is, slow down. There’s plenty to hit and crab traps to avoid as well as having collisions with other night anglers. Keep your lights on and have a quality handheld spotlight at the ready and again, slow down.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.