As summer heats this part of the country , temperatures can reach 90 degrees with very little wind to cool you down. Many of us Florida Keys residents prefer to mix up our fishing in the night, as there are a few great night time fisheries we have down here for the summer. One is our fabulous tarpon fishing, second is our snapper, and third our sword fishing and deep dropping. Whatever floats your boat, the Florida Keys has it. So, whether you are an offshore fisherman, bottom jerk, or a shallow water stalker, the night has something for you.
For you shallow water stalkers, docks, bridges, and basins are your areas. Nowadays almost every fisherman has a lighted dock or even lights in the water to attract fish. As they see it, their back dock is their own personal saltwater aquarium. Take note that this now becomes your one of the best areas for your night fishing, especially if the wind is blowing. The light attracts baitfish and saltwater worms which the larger predators use as a feeding station. When you fish someone’s lighted dock you have to keep in mind that the people don’t own the canal or water which they are lighting up, but be discrete, because you are fishing in someone’s backyard. Respect them and they won’t care that you are out there fishing. I have caught many different species off of lighted docks such as tarpon, snook, snappers, ladyfish, jacks, lookdowns, and even grouper. When fishing these docks you can use live bait or artificial, which ever you prefer. However, I always liked using top water artificial – I just love the explosions but that’s me.
The Florida Keys have lots of bridges, but you don’t have to fish the big ones as there are lots of small ones connecting communities that are great to fish. As long as there’s a current and deep enough water, bridges are loads of fun to fish. Most people fish the main bridges, but there are plenty of smaller bridges that can be a great resource of good fishing. Now when I say fishing bridges, I don’t mean fishing from them but from a boat. Most of these smaller bridges you can’t fish from the bridge anyways, but I thought I should clarify this for you.
One of my favorite night fishing areas is the reef. I love snapper fishing, and to be out on the reef with a clear summer sky is breathtaking. The reef is alive at night during the summer, but you will have to try not to fish close to the full moon, as the bite tends to slow down. I prefer to fish the new moon as it’s the best bite you will get. For some reason the snappers don’t really like the light from the boat or the moon, so the darker is better. If you find yourself fishing on the full moon you can still fish, just wait for the moon to go down. This means you’ll be fishing really late in the evening. When the moon is full it’s usually out before the sun goes down, so it will set in the later part of the evening. Fishing the reef you can catch yellowtail, mangroves, mutton, cubera, and dog snapper to name a few. Groupers will tend to eat at night too, but usually they are daytime feeders.
When fishing for swordfish became popular, everyone thought these magnificent beast of the deep could only be caught at night. But about 7 years ago pioneer Richard Stanzick shared his techniques he had learned in Venezuela for catching swordfish. Now everyone has forgotten about the night, drifting 30 miles out in the middle of the Gulf Stream for a rewarding catch. Night fishing for swords is still my favorite way to fish for them. I like the peaceful night, nothing but you, the water, the stars, and the occasional freighter (which you have to keep your eye on, they rarely move for fisherman). I have had a few freighters that would have ran us over while we drifting out there if I wasn’t on my toes! The continental shelf is where the swords live. Some places are better than others, but when fishing at night the swords follow the squid up from the bottom and cruise depths of 300 feet to the surface. I have a few areas where I have had good luck in the past. I usually start down to the west and drift to the north east, but sometimes I’ll back track to an area where I caught fish or where I have gotten bites. But generally I will move the boat south back out to deeper water, trying to cover some area on the edge of the shelf. The idea is to keep on the edge because the fish swim strait up to feed from their daytime areas in 2000-1300 feet of water on the bottom or close to it. But once up on the surface the swords will venture around looking for food, so keep your baits in the water and around the edge of the shelf and you will catch one of these magnificent creatures.
Whether you prefer the shallow water or the deep, when the temperature rises go fish the nighttime – it’s cooler in many ways.