Make sure you have a seasoned crew
You’ve heard a friend say at some point, “Hey watch this, I’m gonna try something.” Generally what happens next usually requires stiches. But on that rare occasion, an amazing feat is discovered or achieved. Well, this week I had a similar experience. I had a group of fellas from England and Australia who really wanted to fish but the meetings they were attending kept them busy until late in the afternoon. I explained that we could do some shark fishing or maybe even a tarpon trip, but we were very limited on daylight for offshore species. Then I asked myself, “Has anyone ever tried trolling at night?”
I called them back and said the words I mentioned earlier. They agreed and we left the dock at a little after 5 p.m. By the time we got to our chosen spot we had around an hour of daylight left. Instantly the tuna and bonita were blowing up on our trolling baits. I figured even if it didn’t work after dark, we had a few good ones in the box. Then our high-speed plug rod started smoking off yardage and I knew we had hung a wahoo.
So far nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone knows the tuna and wahoo like the low light of daybreak and sunset. But what would happen when the lights went out? Sunset came and went and I decided to mark my lines at the outrigger and flat line lengths so I knew how far to put them out once I could no longer see them. After the glasses came off and squinting no longer worked, there we were, trolling at night.
We learned a lot about trolling at night. For example, if you venture inside of 140 feet or so you are now in the minefield of traps and can’t see them. It’s also hard to tell if bait has been chomped or if it’s dragging weeds — you can’t see it.
Working off the glow of the GPS and depth sounder we continued our zigzag pattern along the edge of the reef. Without a bite for around 30 minutes or so I figured that was it, it’s was over for the night.
Then, in about 120 feet of water, both outrigger clips snapped and the spools started singing. Shortly after, the flat line joined in and we had three on. All were nice blackfin tuna! Man, were we excited to learn about the night bite. I kept the engines in gear and headed offshore at an idle to get rigged again.
Everyone forgot about the plug rod, which was all by itself in the back while we were taking photos and extracting hooks. It reminded us of its presence with a high-pitched squeal. And, what do you know, wahoo will bite at night too!
We got things back out and got covered up again by a pack of bonitas. In fact, it’s apparent the fish are not as “boat shy” after darkness falls. The tunas and bonitas were eating the flatline as quick as the outriggers. Needless to say the boys were happy and we started heading back to the dock.
Did it work? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Would I do it again? For sure.
I certainly wouldn’t suggest it unless you have a fairly seasoned crew and are very sure of your boating skills and equipment. Local knowledge is key. We had one guy up front on lookout the entire time and our trip home was not nearly as quick as the trip out. One thing for sure, it was definitely cooler than the midday sun.
Remember, if you are out on a boat at night for any reason makes sure you are prepared for everything. The ocean is a different place at night. Be careful and always respect the weather and Mother Ocean. I hope to see you out there and good luck.