SEEING THE “LIGHT” FOR MORE PRODUCTIVE NIGHTS
The 2023 Striped Bass season has opened in New York, and by time you read this article I have probably made my transition from hitting the creeks, estuaries, and back bays during the late afternoons to primarily fishing at night. This transition comes as water temperatures increase and fish start to get active. This gives me a great opportunity to discuss a topic I have touched upon in some seminar discussions but have never written about- artificial ambient light and its effect on Striped Bass fishing at night.
When I make my transition to fishing at night after fishing days for schoolies and holdover stripers, I begin fishing in more urban areas to catch the migration in the early stages before working my way back to some of my usual beaches. These urban areas are surrounded with consistent ambient light from apartment buildings, bridges, and streetlamps. These areas
provide a stable environment as far as the external “atmospheric” elements around these fishing locations. This stability creates “consistent” conditions.
This consistency is positive, just as it is when dealing with weather, tides, structure etc. My experience shows that when conditions remain consistent, the bites become consistent over the period of stability. I have also noted, from many years of fishing, that in these urban areas the lure colors that are productive are limited by the constant light. The best colors have always been the lighter colors- white, bone, yellow, chartreuse, yellow & white, and “wonder bread”. Even on both moon cycles, you can stay on these colors when the light is consistent. This typically is not the case when fishing other parts of the season in other areas where, with a new moon, I have the most success with darker colors, and on the full moon, the lighter colors have produced better.
After the “urban nights season”, I move out to my local waters for the remainder of the spring and fall season. The ambient light in these “rural” areas have little to no consistency, and it does not seem to matter whether I'm fishing the north or south shore or areas on either fork. It is at these times that added light in an area can be a problem- not only for fishing, but for safety as well. When it comes to fishing at a time when light has been added- think light such as headlights, light bars, construction lights, barge lights, etc.- the added light can kill the night as it shines into the water. it can be very detrimental to what may have been a consistent bite, and even cause it to shut off. On several occasions I have had this aggravating experience.
One night when the bite was really good on an east-end beach (quite a few good-sized bass for a few consecutive nights) after a few days of consistent levels of ambient light, the consistency was interrupted by headlights from a vehicle parked about 100 feet to my left. The driver left the headlights shining right on the water. This person proceeded to set up three dead-stick rods
while leaving the lights on the whole time. No surprise, he did not catch anything, but my bite shut off as well. It wound up being an early night and I left very frustrated.
When I fish these “rural” areas where light can be less consistent, I use a wider variety of colors to match the changing light conditions, such as effects caused by different phases of the moon, varying degrees of cloud cover etc. A good rule of thumb is “as the sky becomes brighter move lure color towards lighter. When fishing deepening dark night, throw the dark colors right.”
Sudden changes in light also affect safety on our beaches, particularly for anglers whose eyes are already adjusted for that night’s fishing. Whether on a beach or jetty, the anglers’ eyes have adapted to the low light of that night. The sudden impact of shining lights in their faces is not only annoying but impedes vision and safety. It could cause an angler on the move to get disoriented to the point where they could suffer harm from a slip or fall. This type of sudden impact also affects safety when driving vehicles, especially when coming from high beam lights, light bars or other aftermarket products. This can cause drivers to not see obstacles such as holes, drop-offs, washed up logs, rocks and even fellow anglers moving on foot. Driving safely can be much more difficult when you have bright light in your face.
In closing, I hope this article “sheds some light” on fishing both urban and rural places at night, and provides some ideas as to adaptations fish make and the ones you must make to have a more productive night of fishing. Wishing you a great season, many tightlines and hopefully a personal best. Live the Passion! Tightlines!
iBass360.com features a monthly surfcasting blog from Bernie Hoyt, a NYS Certified Fishing Guide with 40+ years of experience fishing the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows in the Northeast, and now has a radio show- TightLines with Bernie Bass & The Captain where listeners are treated to the latest happenings, including gear reviews and techniques for the surf fishing, and interesting developments in the saltwater fishing scene. Join Bernie on the radio Saturday morning and Sunday evening on www.1390wriv.com/. AM. Contact Bernie for more more details on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services.