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Fishing in the Dark

When the days are too hot, try the hours before midnight

The temperature in the low 70s seemed cool after the scorching sun, just a few hours ago, had sent the mercury into the high 90s. The multitudes of motorized craft churning the waters had long ago headed for home. I had the spot to myself, a rather surreal feeling in the silence and darkness.
    I motored slowly into position and lowered my Power Pole anchor firmly into the bottom on the spot I had marked on my GPS. As my skiff swung stern to on the freshening tidal current, I relaxed, reached for my casting rod and fingered the swimming plug rigged earlier that evening. Carefully, I made my way to the bow.
    At 10pm, the waning quarter moon threw little light. But I had fished here often and knew exactly where I was located. I was anchored in four feet of water over the remnants of a jetty reduced by years of relentless storms and currents that swept by the prominent point.
    Surrounding depths reached five to six feet in most places, but I had chosen a shallow-running lure because I intended to target another inundated jetty well down current. It rose up to about three feet under the surface, creating a nice rip occasionally but barely visible in the meager light.
    I knew from experience that rockfish would stage just below that jetty to pick off baitfish swept along and disoriented by the swirling waters cresting the rocks below. The questions that night were two: Would they show up after the disruptions of the daytime boat traffic? If so, just what sections of the long jetty would they prefer?
    I had only an hour and a half to complete my quest, since possession of a striped bass on the water is illegal after midnight, and I needed at least a half-hour to get back to the ramp.
    Casting my plug out about 30 degrees crosscurrent, I let the lure swing, the tidal pull giving it all the action it needed. As my line straightened below me, I pulsed the lure one time, then cranked it back in a slow, steady retrieve.
    Working the rip methodically, I targeted first one area, then another. If the fish were there, would they show up in time? The clock was ticking. If I was to secure a dinner for the next evening, it would have to be soon.
    On the fourth or fifth cast, I can’t really remember, I felt my line stop, then surge out, pulling my rod tip down almost to the gunnel. Lifting smartly, I set the hook and felt a good fish begin its run. Lifting my rod high to keep the line clear of the sunken jetty’s rocks, I was alarmed to feel the grating vibrations of contact.
    Thankfully I was using braided line, which is much more forgiving than mono. Still, one sharp edge and I could kiss the fish and my expensive lure adios.
    The fish continued to take out line against my lightly set drag. I relaxed as its distance from the jetty increased and my line’s contact with the rocks ceased.
    It ran off well to one side as I applied extra pressure with my thumb, lifting, reeling and working the fish gradually to the side of the boat. In poor light I could glimpse a solid swirl from time to time as it neared me. I groped for the net.
    Eventually I led the fat rascal in and brought it over the side. I didn’t have to measure it to determine if it was a keeper. It was a heavy one. Pulling out my small flashlight rigged with a red lens so that my night vision wouldn’t be compromised, I removed the plug from its jaw.
    Burying the handsome fish in the ice, I double-checked my rig for any tangles or line fouling and prepared to cast again.
    A few casts later to the same spot brought a virtual twin of the first.
    As I judged that I had tempted the fates enough that evening, I headed back in with plenty of time to make curfew. At the ramp I was still totally alone. That’s a real rarity in the summer, unless you play in the dark.