NIGHT FISHING WITH KIDS
If you live anywhere in the Southeast, much less Florida, then you know all too well how sweltering summer can get. Fishing during the dead of summer often entails waking up at 05:00am and getting on the water prior to the suffocating heat and humidity that begins to rear its ugly head by 10:00 am. If you fish with your family, especially your kids, you know that the heat, a slow bite, and tired little ones can often be a recipe for disaster. Having experienced this first hand, and obviously wanting to make my fishing experience with my kids the most successful and enjoyable, we often choose to fish at night. It’s simple, and when done safely and correctly, can yield an awesome experience for the whole family.
Play it safe!
The absolute first and foremost rule to night fishing is safety. Running your boat under minimal light at any time, but especially with children, can be dangerous. It is imperative that before you set off, you run the route multiple times in the day in your boat. Take note of debris, channel markers and anything that could possibly be of hindrance. With today’s technology and GPS, you can follow your previous tracks, but it’s important not to solely rely on those. Get a good visual or “eyes on” your route in the day time, prior to embarking at night. I also like to bring a large spotlight every time I go out at night, just to be safe. Luckily, most bridges and docks that you should target when night fishing are usually decently lit. Whatever you do though, take your time getting to your spot and be keenly aware of your surroundings.
Now that we have the safety brief out of the way, let’s talk night fishing locations to take your kids and family to. I like to target big bridges that are well lit with street lights, along with docks that have some sort of light either right above the water or underneath. Green and white lights seem to be the best for targeting fish, along with some moving water. More than likely you’ll find a plethora of inshore species when fishing lights. Redfish, Snook, Seatrout, and Mangrove Snapper all frequent dock lights and bridge lights. This type of fishing not only attracts a ton of fish, but the lights are also a great visual target for your kids to cast too. Often times you can also see the bait getting hammered underneath the lights, and that’s usually a good sign that the fish are there as well. The kids usually get excited when we pull up to a light, and its already teeming with activity. It’s pretty simple, find some well-lit structure with good lighting and you’ll more than likely find fish. Next up I’ll talk bait and tackle selection.
Since I’m usually fishing at night with my two boys who are 10 and 5 years old, we almost always fish with some sort of live bait. Not only is it easier to deal with, but my boys really enjoy the process of catching our own bait. When fishing our favorite bridge or dock lights, we will often get there ahead of time and catch croaker, sand trout, mullet or menhaden either cast netting or catching them by hook and line with a small piece of shrimp. Live shrimp or even big frozen shrimp work well too. If we are fishing a live bait such as a croaker or mullet, I like to make a simple knocker or Carolina rig with a circle hook and let it sit at the bottom. Live and dead shrimp work well on the bottom, as well as on a popping cork. We utilize 3000-4000 series spinning reels, with 20lb braid and a 20-30lb flouro leader. This will give you a little more backbone if a fish heads for some structure.
Time to Send it
Once you have all your bait and gear, you and the kids are ready to get rocking! The whole purpose of fishing the lights, is to literally do just that. Fish the lights! Target your baits where the light meets the water. That’s where the fish will be holding. For my five year old, I will often toss it up into the light for him, especially if it’s a tight space. However, when fishing a big bridge that has lots of space, you can utilize that time to help your kid hone his own casting skills. It’s an awesome visual reference, and will only help them get better on their fishing journey. There are a ton of fish that can be caught by simply utilizing these methods. Not only will you beat the heat during the day, but you’re also introducing your kids and family to whole new aspect of fun and exciting fishing. It’s something that my boys and I love to do, and hopefully with these few tips, you and your family will enjoy as well. Thanks for reading and tight lines!