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Night Fishing:
Being Prepared - Keeping Safe

By Capt. George Welcome

Summertime arrives with temperatures that are hot and nighttime fishing becomes an inviting proposition. However, fishing your hometown lake at night requires much more preparation than daytime fishing does.

That body of water so familiar and friendly during the day becomes foreign and sometimes hostile as darkness descends. With just a little more preparation it can be enjoyed however and the results can be absolutely super. Being pro-active instead of reactive will ensure a safe and enjoyable venture in the darkness of night.

Fishing day or night requires that your boat be properly equipped as per U.S. Coast Guard required equipment. Personal floatation devices (properly fitted) for each person on board are at the top of the list and should be worn by everyone when fishing at night. Finding someone that has fallen overboard in the daytime is generally easy, but in the dark can be quite difficult. A throwable flotation device is also required equipment and should be in a convenient location.

Bow and stern lights are required and essential equipment on your boat, and they must be lit when visibility is reduced. Striking unseen objects at night is the most often reported nighttime accident and unlit boats lead as those unseen objects. The temptation to venture forth without proper lighting is not only illegal, but also extremely foolish.

A proper and fully functional warning device (horn) becomes a vital piece of equipment in the darkness. It can be used to warn approaching craft as to your presence and also can be used to draw attention in the event of problems arising. Although not required unless off shore, visual distress signals (flares) should be on board.

An approved type fire extinguisher that is currently dated should be onboard and in a convenient and ready location. During a fire is no time to find out that the extinguisher will not function because it is out of date.

A paddle is required, not optional equipment, and again should be in a convenient and accessible location.

Recommended equipment that should be on board would include an anchoring device with adequate line in both size and length for your boat. Deployment of the anchor should occur at the first sign of trouble to keep your boat in its present safe location. Too often then anchor is the last thing thought of and boats end up drifting into dangerous situations.

Some sort of bailing device should be on board. Pumps are useless when the battery goes dead.

Flashlight and batteries (that have been checked) and spare batteries should be onboard when fishing at night. The one flaw in flashlights is that they seem to fail just when we need them. Check the operation before launching!

A radio with weather band capability is not only recommended for day operation but is an essential piece of equipment at night. Those clouds that look harmless that you see floating over can be hiding a serious storm. The whole world could know about it but if you have no means of hearing the warnings you can be caught by natures worst.

First aid kit, basic tools, manuals etc. are all recommended.

Navigation tools, which are helpful in the daylight, become absolutely essential for safety at night. Obviously your best choice for nighttime operation would be a GPS. However, a compass would be a considerable assistant in the dark. Not only is everything different out there at night, but also things such as fog can move in with no apparent warning and without a means of determining direction you are dead in the water.

With both pieces of equipment that are mentioned above, being completely familiar with their functions is of extreme importance. A GPS is a basically simple piece of equipment but it does take some practice to use it correctly and efficiently. It's a little late to start reading the manual and trying to figure out how the GPS works when trouble raises up to mar your trip.

A compass is a very basic piece of equipment, but again to follow a path and navigate with it does take some practice. For example, did you know that when you make an initial turn to the left that your compass would swing right? For someone that has not used the compass this can be very confusing, especially when stress adds to your navigational problem.

In addition, a compass only shows direction of travel, not the direction to your destination, so when fishing at night you should already have made the trips during daylight hours so you know the direction you need to go from your fishing spots back to the dock. Not many lakes have sufficient markers to combine with a chart so pre-locating and sticking to those pre-locations for fishing at night is essential for nighttime fishing.

File a fishing plan with someone so that in event something occurs you can be found. Of course sticking to that plan is absolutely a must if it is to have any value. Ideally, when fishing at night, make your plan so that you stay relatively close to the shoreline. However, with practice and experience you can venture further and further out without mishap.

With just a little preparation you can venture out in the dark and have a safe and enjoyable fishing experience. Without this preparation that adventure can turn into your biggest and darkest nightmare. The results can be a simple scare, or quickly turn into total tragedy. It is not uncommon to hear stories of absolute fantastic times fishing at night. Be prepared and have one of those fantastic times.




Capt. George Welcome and his son Scott operate Imagination Bassin Guide Service. Between the two, they have dozens of years of experience fishing central Florida lakes. Capt. Welcome also provides a weekly report for CyberAngler - click here to read his current report.

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