Catching these fish is usually simple, but it’s easy to forget the dangers lurking in the dark: wind, weather, waves, and powerboats, among others. This is a simple primer on the incidentals of lightline fishing, beyond the catch; anglers far better versed than I have covered these topics in extensive detail.
A lightline trip begins with a last-minute check of the weather and tides to ensure that we’re not heading out into the proverbial washing machine, or worse. Some chop is good, as it seems to fire up the fish and keep the crowds off the water. A placid night can turn in an instant, so keeping an eye or ear on your phone (http://www.yakangler.com/blogs/user-blogs/item/1675-there-is-an-app-for-that) or weather radio is wise, though somewhat difficult with the promise of more fish under the next span. Some of us just rely on the forecast and avoid truly questionable nights.
At minimum, a good, bright, white light on a tall lightpole is essential if you want to avoid becoming roadkill. The lightline concentrations of fish draw plenty of attention and there are too many people zooming around without regard for their surroundings. The “VISICarbon Pro” from YakAttack is quite popular, and there are many other viable options, including building your own setup from PVC. Reflective tape, strategically placed on your boat and paddle, is likewise a good call. Many lifejackets and marine coats have reflective patches, and it’s easy enough to add them—cheap life insurance. Top it all off with a quality headlamp. If you really want to go all out, you could run this setup and pimp your ride, http://www.yakangler.com/forum/21-look-what-i-did/20870-did-anybody-spot-this-at-the-boondoggle-last-night, or buy a glow-in-the dark boat, http://www.yakangler.com/forum/20-water-cooler/20859-if-you-paddle-alot-at-night. Lights and reflectors are the first line of defense before our whistles or airhorns come out.
In the early season, clothing is really a no-brainer, but when the air and water temperatures really drop, clothing can make or break a nighttime assault. It almost goes without saying, but this type of fishing requires a comfortable lifejacket that you’ll wear at all times. For an outer layer, most go with a dry top and a pair of waders, or a full-on drysuit. It’s best to turtle-test this outfit under controlled conditions before it becomes truly cold. Underneath the outer shell, layering is key: wicking garments, some wool or fleece, good socks, a hat, and you’re good to go—no cotton! A good pair of wool or neoprene gloves completes the outfit.
“When you’re fishing the lightlines, make sure your head is always on a swivel.” This is perhaps the most important piece of safety advice I’ve received, and it came from a great lightliner, Jeff Greendyk, of Orvis Richmond. For that matter, I typically use the buddy system, so someone is watching my back and ready to help at a moment’s notice. A pair of radios is helpful for calling your buddy if you’re separated by more than a few sets of pilings.
It can get crowded, it can get crazy, and the conditions can be brutal; nevertheless, with a bit of preparation, there’s no better place to be on a cold winter night than under the darkness of a bridge span, hooked up.
About the Author: Ben is an avid kayak angler who plies the waters of Hampton Roads, Virginia with fly and light tackle. A transplanted Yankee, he developed a true taste for the salt after moving south of the Mason-Dixon. He remains loyal to http://www.flyfishersparadiseonline.com/, his employer throughout college. Ben can be found on the water under cover of darkness, waving a stick in a plastic boat.