Nights are for sleeping, but if you are an angler who likes to go a mile extra, this is the best time to be out fishing. So you’re there wondering whether you stand any chance of catching any fish in the night.
Ice fishing at night is as good as doing it during the day as, primarily, there will be fewer anglers to compete with than during the day. Besides, there are more fish such as walleye, crappie, rainbow trout, pickies, and catfish at night than during the day.
But there are several extra precautions you need to consider during this time.
We’re going to table everything you are looking for concerning ice fishing at night, what precautions you should take, and other critical insights on this topic. Come, let us take this journey together.
Is ice fishing good after dark?
Ice fishing after nightfall has its fair share of advantages that are worth the hassle, such as the following:
1. You’ll Experience Less Fishing Pressure
During the day, every angler is out looking for their daily bread (daily fish, for this case). But if you do not like working in crowded and chaotic waters, ice fishing after dark is a better idea.
At night, there will be fewer people like you who are out there fishing primarily because of the obvious reason- nights are dark and chilly, and few people are willing to endure such conditions.
Also, with there being lesser disturbance of the waters at night, the fish will be closer to the surface than you’re even anticipating. Thus, although we’re not saying you’ll find it easier to catch fish at night than during the day, there’s just some calmness in the night you can’t afford to miss out on.
2. There’s increased Fish Activity for some Species.
Some fish species are nocturnal, meaning they enjoy feeding at night, like the walleye, catfish, burbot, crappie, and rainbow trout. Most of these fish are difficult to catch during the day, but they can’t keep hiding at night as they have to come out and eat.
Thus, casting your net during nightfall increases your chances of landing them. Also, there are some fish species, such as crappie, that are attracted to bright light during the night. Hence, for such fish, the darker the night, the higher the odds of drawing them to your light bait.
Of course, some fish species are less active at night, but you don’t definitely need to focus on these as there are so many more tasty kinds roaming during this time.
3. New Experience, More Fun
The idea of going out at night (probably with a friend) with a headlight on in the silent waters must definitely be quite alluring. Thus, even if you are not a professional angler, there’s more fun casting your line/net into the waters and drawing the catch under the moon.
It will feel quite chillier and harrowing at first, especially if you’re not fond of going outdoors but trust me, it will be worth it by dawn.
4. You Have Extra Fishing Time
If you work 9-5, the weekends might be the only free time that you’ve got, and because you want to maximize this period, you’ll find it best to go ice fishing at night. Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessarily apply only on the weekends because the main point here is that the nights are pretty long.
And essentially, if you’re short of time, there’s no better way to create some extra than heading down to the lake at night with your fishing attire.
Ice fishing after dark Cons
It’s not all glam going out to fish in the night because there are some potential downsides that you’ll encounter, such as the following:
1. Lesser Fish Variety
There are relatively lesser fish varieties that are active during the night. Yes, you’ll have unlimited access to kinds such as walleyes and crappies, but the harsh truth is that you’re pretty limited in regards to access to other options.
Therefore, if you are not familiar with the specific species that are common in certain waters, you may have diminished chances of catching them. But again, you can consider asking around for the particular fish to target if you’re fishing in unfamiliar waters.
2. Danger Lurks in Darkness
Nights can be quite dangerous, primarily because there’s reduced visibility during this time. For instance, you’re likely to run into other fishing boats moving at high speeds.
Also, because of the chilly waters and the surrounding, you may contract hypothermia (a condition that is commonplace during such conditions).
Thus, ensure you’re not out fishing alone at night. A friend watching your back will be handy in assisting you to handle these dangers better than while you’re alone. Also, avoid the urge to go deeper into waters you’ve not visited before unless you’re in the company of someone who’s been there before.
What bites at night ice fishing?
Earlier, we mentioned that there are specific fish species that are more active at night than during the day. Essentially they come out to feed; hence in this section, we’re exploring the select few that you can catch at night.
As a general rule, it’s easier to catch crappie, walleye, trout, pike, catfish, and muskies at night than during the day.
Ice fishing for trout at night
Catching trout during the night is not as straightforward as for other fish we’re going to cover. Nonetheless, if you’re fishing in waters renowned for their high trout content, you’ll mostly catch rainbow trout, which is most common at night.
Often, you’ll locate trout in relatively shallow waters with soft bottoms as this is primarily where waxworms, crayfish, and other sea worms (trout feed on these worms) hide. Thus, while fishing, it is imperative to have visible lures and bait such as waxworms to catch trout.
Besides, you need to be a jigging expert to catch trout. Thus, avoid erratic movements of the lure as it may scare away the fish. Also, trouts are relatively slow than other nighttime favorites such as walleyes and crappies. Thus, patience will come in handy as you look to catch these fish.
Ice fishing for walleye at night
For walleyes, nightfall is when these fish are most active. They also have excellent vision, which aids them to evade prey. However, while angling, this excellent vision is one key thing you can use to your advantage.
Thus, the best lures for walleyes should be shiny such as rattle spoons.
As for the right jigging technique, making relatively short motions using your wrist will ensure you create the necessary vibration without making it too erratic. The fish are sensitive to such movements even from a distance, and they will be easily drawn to them.
Ice fishing for crappie at night
Crappies are renowned for their increased activity during the night. Also, they are fond of camping around zooplankton, where they obtain their food. Thus, when fishing, these are some of the areas you need to target.
The best lure for catching crappies should be medium-sized and highly visible bait. Also, consider using glowing jigs, as they have a pretty good chance of drawing the fish. Furthermore, they are sensitive to underwater green light, and such illumination will also draw crappies’ prey, such as small fish and plankton.
If the authorities in your area allow live bait fishing, consider attaching suckers or minnows to a dorsal fin. For added visibility, it is imperative to use this option together with artificial lures.
If you’re an angling novice with no experience in fishing, Crappies and Walleyes should be your primary target as they are the easiest to catch.
Ice fishing for pike at night
You also stand a significant chance of catching pike during nightfall. But, unlike the other nocturnal fish we’ve covered above that are available throughout the night, the pike is active just after sunset and in the early morning hours before sunset.
Thus, because of this behavior, most anglers prefer to set up traps in areas they believe to have shoals of pike. Still, you can go for jigging with items that produce a lot of noise, such as spinners and spoons.
Alternatively, you can jig using soft plastic jigs coupled with a minnows bait. But, you shouldn’t use materials that have glowing lures or those with significant light reflection properties. Such materials will scare away the fish.
Lastly, it is imperative that you set up your traps in weed-infested zones, and this is where pike is fond of hiding.
In addition to the above species, you’re also likely to catch others such as catfish, muskies, and bass during ice fishing after dark. However, these are quite hard to catch, and thus if you’re a novice at night fishing, you’d rather concentrate on the others, such as walleye and crappies.
Remarkable Recommendations for Ice Fishing at Night
Earlier, we mentioned that fishing at night requires some special preparation since the dynamics of this operation are different from daytime fishing. We’ve listed them below, plus an elaboration on why each of the tips is significant.
Mark Out the Spots before the sun sets
Even during the day, it is still a harrowing ordeal to find and drill holes to mark the fishing spots. Hence, you must locate them while the sun is up.
Also, consider enlisting the help of GPS to help you mark out the spots you identified during the daytime when you head out to fish at night. Another viable option is fishing in the same areas where you’ve been fishing during the day at night.
Make Safety a Cardinal Undertaking
Ice fishing during nightfall is always a dangerous affair, and as earlier mentioned, you’re exposed to an extensive range of dangers.
The rule of thumb when ice fishing at night is that you should be in the company of someone. This way, the two of you can help each other in case of danger.
Also, among the other things you should pay attention to before setting out to fish is the ice thickness. Besides, mark out safety paths where you can go if things go haywire. You must also always carry a flashlight when moving around lest you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Lastly, you must bring a lot of food and water, even more than you’d need if you were fishing during the daytime. The point is once you’re out in the lake, you’ll need to replenish a lot, especially to help you stay awake throughout the night.
Have a Variety of Lures
Sometimes, it is hard to attract fish with one type of lure, and you may be prompted to use another one. Of course, you cannot be canoeing to the shore and back to replenish your lure reserves.
Hence as a rule of thumb, ensure you have different types of baits and lures. Also, make sure you’re aware of the kind of fish you’re seeking to catch, as this will help you choose and use the most appropriate lure.
In addition, it would help if used natural bait for the lure that you’re using. This will boost the bait’s smell and taste, which will consequently attract fish.
Know the Fish for a night bite
We cannot reiterate any further that there are specific species that ought to be your cardinal targets while ice fishing at night. Go for night hunters such as walleyes and crappies, which are also more aggressive and capable of noticing prey in the dark than other species.
However, don’t rule out the prospects of catching other fish as depending on the lake, you may have an unconventional case such as night bites for trout or other species you least expected.
Eliminate Outside Light
There’s a huge reason you’re going out for ice fishing at night, and this is to deter fish from noticing your presence.
Also, although some fish such as pike are attracted to bright light, the same cannot be said for others, such as crappies and walleyes. Hence, the best option is to use a headlight with red light. It is bright enough to attract the fish without the potential risk of spooking them.
Alternatively, using a highly attractive lure is a better option. Also, if you must use light, then have green lights, which are neutral to fish.
Adjust your tip-ups
When ice fishing at night, your cardinal aim is definitely to comb the lake as widely as possible and also to be successful in your catch. Therefore, using ice fishing tip-ups together with tip-downs is imperative.
Ice fishing tip-ups indicate a bite by standing up. Nonetheless, these are best suited for daytime fishing when there’s sufficient visibility to ensure you can note the various motions.
Hence, for use at night, you can install small bells to the flags, which you can hear every time a bite happens. Alternatively, you can put LED lights on the flags that light up whenever there’s a bite.
Also, you need to adjust your tip downs as these are harder to notice in the dark. The latter option of installing an LED system that tips when there’s a downward pull will work best. Nonetheless, ensure the LED system is light enough as the weight will tip the tip down.
Carry a Portable Tent
Ice fishing after nightfall is similar to going out camping (or worse, given you’re more exposed during fishing). Hence, it would help to carry a small portable tent to protect you from the elements of nature.
You don’t want to be rained on helplessly in the middle of a chilly lake.
Besides, ensure you carry along the tent whenever you go fishing at night as you just don’t know the weather that may befall you. In addition, the tent will prevent your ice fishing holes from freezing which may complicate your expedition if it happens.
Stay off ice fishing during the full moon
There’s an almost unanimous agreement among most anglers that ice fishing during full moon diminishes the sizes of the catch. Also, you’ll have to wait for an extensive period before having a bite.
Therefore, if you’re still cutting your teeth at ice fishing after nightfall, such an experience may prove quite tortuous, and it is imperative to avoid it.
All in all, don’t use the moon as an excuse for not going out fishing, as the situation is not too bad. Only that you’ll have to wait longer, and your catch won’t be as big as on a dark night.
Go for the Suitable Lines
Choose ice fishing lines over regular lines when ice fishing after nightfall. Essentially this is because an ice fishing line takes into account the weather conditions and thus presents bait in the most accessible way for the fish.
You must resist the temptation of using regular fishing lines as they are relatively more visible to the fish, and they look quite fishy (pun intended,) thus spooking them. On the flip side, ice fishing lines are more natural looking while beneath the ice and are resistant to freezing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a regular angler or an adventurer out to try a handy in fishing; ice fishing after dark is a unique and enjoyable experience. Besides, you have a golden chance of catching fish that you have no chance of laying your hands on during the day.
But as we’ve highlighted, you must understand the behavior of the fish you’re targeting for success during an ice fishing expedition. In addition, always take the aforementioned recommendations into account while out fishing. And don’t forget to carry enough food and coffee, lest you fall asleep while fishing.
Thanks for your time, and I wish you all the best as you plan on your next ice fishing expedition after dark.