Under the lights – Night-fishing not just for summer

The larger trout Johnson catches are typically roaming the dark edge of lighted docks.

Fishing at night is a tactic strictly used during the summer to prevent your face from melting off. Everybody knows that.

But Gulfport’s Kyle Johnson told — and showed — me differently.

“I find it a lot easier to find (fish at night), and it’s the best time of year for night fishing,” Johnson said. “During the fall you’re back in the bayous and the wind doesn’t really matter.”

Our bays and bayous are a different world at night, however, with various safety concerns and tactics to consider.

“Here’s my thing, this is what I tell everybody: If you’re going to fish at night, do not go somewhere you’ve never been,” Johnson said. “If you want to night-fish, take your wife and kids or your buddy who just wants to ride in the boat, and explore that area during the day.

“If you have a depth finder, look for the drop-offs; then go back there at night.”

I told Johnson I had thought about mounting lights on my boat so I could see where I was going.

Bad idea, he said.

“When I’m running, I don’t want any lights on in my boat,” Johnson explained. “I don’t want anybody sitting in front of me on a cell phone. I have all my electronics dimmed to the max because you’re going to see something better after your eyes adjust to the darkness without lights than if you have a bright LED bar on the front.

“That LED light reflects off of everything in front of you.”

I reflected — no pun intended — on some of my early morning jaunts and knew exactly what he meant.

I asked if fishing at night was a good way to avoid “The Man.” I’m no game and fish criminal, but I was curious.

“Don’t think you’re going to get away with anything at night,” Johnson said. “I run into DMR just as much at night as I do during the day. Make sure you have everything (required): I see people getting busted all the time.”

When I think of night-fishing, I think of fish feeding on the bugs falling in the water directly under the light.

Johnson kindly pointed out that he fishes for trout and redfish, not bream.

“This is an unspoken rule,” he explained. “There is not a light on this entire coast that’s big enough for two boats.

“If you see a boat on a light, just give it to him and go to another one. Everybody fishes them differently. I get way off behind them; I want the dock to be at my maximum casting distance.”

There’s a good reason for that approach.

“All of your small (fish) are going to be in the light,” Johnson said. “Your bigger ones are going to be on that outer edge patrolling that darkness.

“As soon as a bait slips up and gets into that light, that’s where the big ones are.”

And having a nearby drop-off is equally important.

“I prefer lights that have deep water by it because the bait is coming up into that light and that shallow water, and it’s just a win-win for everybody,” Johnson explained. “The trout and the reds, it’s easy for them, and it’s just as easy for them as it is easy for me to catch them.

“I know where they’re going to be because they’re going to be around the lights.”

The tackle Johnson uses is typical for fall fishing, and most of us have the basics we need to get started.

“I really like those salt-and-pepper Egret Wedgetails on an 1/8-ounce jighead,” Johnson said. “I reel it quick because … it’s hard to get a trout to hit something when they’re on those glass minnows. That salt-and-pepper and opening night Egret Mambo Mullet are two colors that I do really good on. I also use the white with a chartreuse tail.

“I recommend it to people so many times because you throw it out there and just reel it: That’s all you have to do. You reel it until you feel a bite.”

Johnson uses spinning gear for all of his fishing, and has fine-tuned his nighttime arsenal.

“I switch to my 6-foot, 6-inch medium-action (rod) when I’m fishing in the winter,” he said. “I like the (Temple Fork Outfitters) rods — a really good bang for your buck.

“I switched reels this past year — nothing but Penn Battles.”

He said the Penn Battle 2500 series of reels allows him to spool up almost 150 yards of 20-pound Fins Windtamer, his line of choice.

“If you’re inshore fishing you don’t need anything more than 150 yards (of line),” Johnson said.

Johnson uses a 20-pound Seaguar Blue Label leader between his braid and his bait.

So the next time you’re on the water, take note of docks with lights on them, along with any possible water hazards in the area.

Then consider the tactics Johnson shared and give night-fishing a shot.

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