We arrived at the put in at around 6:30. We were launching from a new spot this time to check out another area adjacent to the glorious docks of old. With this plan in motion, we could fish an oyster bar studded flat before dark and possibly sore mouth a few redfish that have been showing up in the fishing reports recently…and then fish the dock lights after the sun went down.
Of course, a monkey wrench always manages to get tossed into the works.
While putting my gear on my kayak, I noticed that my headlamp was missing from my tackle bag. No worries…I’ve got a back-up…but THAT was missing too. So there I was – about to go fishing in the dark with only 2 small battery powered camping lanterns fore and aft. They don’t really throw off a lot of light – they’re mainly there to help make me visible to boaters.
I can tell you that it isn’t easy re-tying leaders and rigging lures in the dark. Nothing like paradise by the dock lights, eh?
As we fished the mullet schools around the oyster bars while waiting for the sun to descend, I tied on a modified Storm Chug bug (treble hooks removed and replaced by a short shank single hook) and tossed that around the jagged oyster beds amid the grass. This would cause a commotion on the surface as well as keep my lure from getting snagged below. I had one explosion on it but, redfish have a hard time getting their mouths on a surface plug…
This dock is in around 8 feet of water and I pulled an 18 inch trout out of here - even though it has underwater lights.
Two ingredients that I've found that are necessary in order to be successful when fishing docks at night: Number 1 – The dock SHOULD have a light that’s above the water pointing down (think how the sun works) not the underwater lights….the sub-surface lights are pretty, and you can see whatever may be swimming around down there, but I feel that it gives the fish the advantage. Number 2 – Docks in 6-10 feet of water hold more fish than a dock in 2-3 feet of water….It doesn't matter what sort of light that it has.
This is just a theory of course….a theory that keeps proving itself time and again.
So back to the story.
The first dock we stopped at had a nice low slung light…but no one was home. we paddled to the next dock 3 houses down and it was on! The “measles” DOA Shrimp was working as I pulled 3 fish in 5 casts….the largest being 17 inches. Keith was tossing a 3 inch paddle tail an recorded zero fish because he was having problems with the rod that had his DOA on it, and he can’t see very well to tie knots. I offered to get him set up with one but, he said “no thanks”….Fine. Be that way.
Paddling across the bayou to the next string of docks, Keith found the oyster bars the hard way in the dark, coming to a sudden halt with a sharp “BUMP!” Wooopsie!
The next dock featured underwater lights. We could see bait fish scattering and dancing on the surface with larger lurking shadows underneath. One particular specimen was swimming languidly about, snatching bait fish at will. It was a large trout – around 25 inches or so. It made a beeline for my DOA Shrimp, but veered off at the last moment. Same result with the DOA CAL Shad. As Dee Kaminski says, “Those trout don’t get that big by being stupid.” Refer back to my disdain for these underwater lights.
The next set of docks had above the water lights but there were no fish there due to the 3 foot water around them. We were having a hard time finding docks lit up and water deep enough to hold fish. We continued our search through a few more of the residential inlets.
We fished another set of underwater lights, but this time, things were a bit different. Sometimes the fishing gods do smile on you amidst what some might consider challenging circumstances.
You have to remember that when you’re fishing dock lights from a kayak, your cast should be similar to that of swinging a baseball bat….and have the accuracy to cast the lure into a “window” about 18 inches high from the bottom of the decking to the waters surface….and with enough velocity to get it to where the fish are.
My first cast ricocheted of the front of the dock with a thunk. The next cast went right where it needed to be and yielded a 19 inch trout. Of course not having a head lamp, holding the fish with one hand and feeling around in my drybox with the other, I found my camera still in it’s protective case. I’m telling you! One thing after another…
That was the last fish of the night. The batteries had died in my lanterns, so I was forced to make the paddle back to the put-in along the edge of the seawall, in the dark…
By the time I arrived home and got my gear cleaned up and back into the house, it was close to 3am…..It was a good trip and it felt really good to get back out there again, fishing the docks at night.
About the Author: Rob DeVore is a Pro Staff Member at Yakangler.com and an outdoor writer from the Tampa Bay area. He writes for various fishing publications and is the host of The Late Show on the Kayak Fishing Radio Network. Rob also is the author of ABadBackcast.com