Did you know that surf fishing at night might be one of the best times to go surf fishing? Yeah. It can be very productive. But surf fishing at night can be a little tricky, and the rules of the game change a little bit, especially when it comes to what bait and lures you should be using.
The best baits and lures for surf fishing at night are the ones that produce a lot of water movement, leave a strong scent trail, or create a lot of noise. At night fish cannot see, which is why you need specific baits and lures that will attract it in different ways.
When you’re surf fishing at night, you’re going to want to use bait and lures that will give you the most visibility and scent for the fish you’re hunting—remember, if your vision is impaired, so is theirs. This goes double on nights when it is a new moon or especially overcast.
Best Lures For Surf Fishing At Night You Should Try
Lures are definitely worth using when surf fishing at night for a few reasons. Lures are easier to change and put on your rig. They do not require as frequent change or replacement as a standard bait, which can fall off the hook or the fish can steal it.
Lures can make for very productive fishing at night as they will save you time, money and are ideal for beginners that are just getting into surf fishing at night. With these lures, you can catch almost anything that swims in the ocean at night.
Soft Plastic Paddle Tail Swimbaits
Paddletail swimbaits are a soft, plastic-type lure that comes in a variety of colors and is designed to mimic the size, shape, and movement of a baitfish.
These durable lures are especially good for fishing heavy cover or areas around manmade structures, as their sleek shape makes them less likely to snag and cause break-offs.
What Color to Choose for a Paddle Tail Swimbait?
What color of paddle tail swimbait that you choose to use for night fishing will depend on two major factors: the type of baitfish that are typically seen in the area where you’re trying to fish, and visibility in low light conditions.
When choosing a swimbait, you’ll want to pick a swimbait that mimics the baitfish in the area where you’re trying to fish as closely as possible.
This means that if the most prominent baitfish in the fishing area is mackerel scad, you’ll want to pick a swimbait that looks as close to the coloring of scad as possible, so you’d pick a swimbait such as this one.
This will help reflect any moonlight coming down through the water and will make the lure more attractive to any nearby fish.
You can also try glow-in-the-dark swimbaits such as these Yoshikawa Soft Lures for extra visibility in dark water on moonless nights.
What Fish to Catch with Soft Plastic Paddle Tail Swimbaits?
Soft plastic paddle tail swimbaits are most attractive to larger fish of ten pounds or more, making them a good choice for night fishing. At night, larger fish that stay offshore during daylight come into the surf zone to hunt under the security of darkness.
This means that while you’d normally catch mostly panfish in the breakers during dawn and dusk after dark is when you can catch much larger fish—even rays and sharks—right off the beach.
Swimbaits don’t draw as many strikes as some other kinds of lures, but the strikes they tend to be from the big boys.
Large game fish such as red drum and striped bass are good targets for swimbaits, as bass are very aggressive feeders that will technically strike at targets too large for them to swallow, which means swimbaits will attract strikes from both medium-sized and large-sized species of sea bass at night.
Gold Metallic Spoons
For such a simple-looking lure, metallic gold spoons are versatile tackle when it comes to night fishing in the ocean.
The more concave the lure, the more it will flash in the water.
What Size and Shape to Choose for a Gold Metallic Spoon?
A gold metallic spoon is ideal for night fishing versus other kinds of spoons because the metallic surface of the lure catches and reflects all available light, making the lure as visible as possible in low light night-time conditions.
This is in contrast to colored matte spoons with the same action as metallic gold spoons but is not as visible at night. A lot of a spoon’s action will also be derived from its length.
The longer or more concave the spoon is, the more the spoon will wobble from side to side in the water as you reel it in. The shorter or flatter a spoon is, the less it will wobble in the water.
One of the best kinds of metallic spoons you can get for night fishing are spoons that have been beaten with a hammer to produce a rippled texture effect.
This metallic rippled texture reflects light in more directions than a smooth-surfaced lure, and the way that light bounces off the texture of the spoon mimic the way light bounces off the scales of baitfish.
The size of the spoon you choose will depend on what kind of fish you’re going after.
Since going to be night fishing, you’ll have to be prepared to get strikes from larger fish than you would if you were surf fishing during daylight hours, so you might want to go up a size larger than you otherwise think you’d need.
What Fish to Catch with Gold Metallic Spoons
Since you’re likely to contend with larger fish after dark, you’ll want to be sure to go with a heavier tackle to match for the larger end of the weight spectrum, since the type of fish that will target it gets to be on the larger size, and the big ones creep in towards the beach at night.
Otherwise, if you land a twenty-pound red drum on a tiny spoon and a light surf rod, you’re going to end up with a serious fight on your hands or some missing tackle (or both).
Berkeley Gulp Shrimp
Berkley Gulp Shrimp is a very popular lure among saltwater anglers and with good reason. These artificial soft lures combine both worlds’ best when it comes to artificial lures and live bait—sight and scent together.
These lures are the perfect choice for anglers who want the attraction factor of using live shrimp bait but don’t want to have to fool with hooking live shrimp or dealing with the inevitable dead ones.
Thanks to the special juice that these soft lures come packed in, they feel (and stink) just like real things.
Considerations when Using Berkley Gulp Shrimp
You need to keep in mind several things when using Berkley Gulp Shrimp artificial lures for night fishing. Here are some of the considerations you need to factor in:
- Berkley Gulp Shrimp will dry out. If you leave a rigged Berkeley Gulp Shrimp on the hook after a fishing session, it will dry out, and as a result, it will not be as effective in the water. For best results, return lures to their special juice to catch fish another day.
- Berkley Gulp Shrimp will get bitten up. Everything in the water likes these artificial lures, and after several strikes, your lures might start missing heads, tails, etc. This is because they smell and taste so much like real food that they get treated like real food. If your Berkley Gulp Shrimp become too tattered, save them in a plastic baggie with a bit of juice and save the pieces to bait for smaller panfish on light tackle.
- If the package leaks, you will regret it. Want to smell rotting shrimp in your car for the rest of the summer? Then be sure not to let this plastic tub tip over or leak into any of your fishing gear or in your vehicle, or you’ll be smelling Berkley Gulp Shrimp for the rest of the season (and not in a good way).
Berkley Gulp Shrimp come in a variety of colors so you can choose a color that most closely matches the baitfish or shrimp in your fishing spot. While these lures aren’t especially visible at night, their oily shrimp-like smell acts as a strong attractant in the water.
What Fish Can You Catch with Berkley Gulp Shrimp?
The better question is, what fish can’t you catch with Berkeley Gulp Shrimp? Everything in the surf zone will want a piece of these lures, but they are particularly attractive to scent-based hunters like saltwater catfish, rays, and small sharks.
One of the best things about these lures is that as long as a fish can fit it in their mouth, everything that bites off the beach will take a bite at these.
White Bucktail Jigs
White bucktail jigs are a traditional form of lure and fell out of favor for several decades, but have since come back into fashion with a vengeance.
When it comes to surf fishing, it’s hard to beat these practical, inexpensive lures that sometimes prove the simplest thing is the best thing.
Bucktail jigs are widely regarded as one of the most versatile fishing lures available and find use as lures in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
Bucktails are also one of the oldest types of lures, originating back to fishing lures created by the Native Americans before the arrival of the colonial British.
Bucktail jigs are so successful the U.S. Navy packs them in emergency gear for sailors if they are forced to fish for their survival.
Spro Bucktail Jig is an especially good choice for night fishing since they are appropriate for such a wide variety of fish. Their light color increases their visibility in low light conditions.
Topwater Pencil Poppers
Topwater Pencil Poppers are larger lures designed to look like panicked or injured baitfish and imitate them in movement by popping across the water’s surface.
Pencil poppers are designed in a staggering variety of styles and colors to mimic different species of baitfish for different fishing environments, and most are minnow-shaped.
Topwater pencil poppers are an excellent choice for night fishing because they appeal to a larger class of game fish, which are the kinds of fish that you’ll find coming in close to shore after the sun goes down.
These lures originated in the Cape Cod Canal and were originally meant to imitate whiting, but are now designed to mimic different baitfish.
While pencil poppers can be an excellent choice for night fishing, they do require some finesse to work correctly. A pencil popper has to be reeled slowly but erratically to sell the appearance of a dying baitfish.
Topwater Pencil Poppers come in two varieties—floating and sinking. Most poppers are designed to float, but sinking poppers are designed for rough surf conditions and can be cast farther than floating poppers.
One of the best fish to catch on pencil poppers are striped bass, as large ones venture towards the shore at night, and they find the movements of a popper simply irresistible.
Unlike poppers, which are primarily designed to work the topwater with erratic movements, needlefish lures like those created by Boone are designed to skim smoothly through the water near the bottom, where they act to attract sea trout, striped bass, and especially bottom dwellers like flounder.
Needlefish lures are perfect for casting at night. These create a lot of water movement and have a very distinct action to them that will attract the fish at night.
Like topwater pencil poppers, needlefish lures are deadly for striped bass at night, and they can’t seem to keep their mouths off them.
For those who don’t want to deal with the hassle of jerking and swinging around a topwater lure, needlefish lures can be good alternatives.
Originally these lures were designed in the 1950s to go after sea trout, but since their inception, they have been used on a number of different species of coastal game fish with high levels of success.
Darter Lure offers the best of both words between straight reeling lures like needlefish plugs and pencil poppers—they can be pulled back in smoothly.
Or if you twitch the rod, the bend in the shape of the lure will cause it to dart rapidly from side to side, imitating a panicked baitfish. The lure can also be made to perform a diving movement.
These kinds of movements in a lure are suitable for night fishing since the additional action helps add visibility to the lure in low light conditions, especially if you choose one with a metallic, iridescent, or glow-in-the-dark surface.
Because they attract larger fish like striped bass, darter lures are not a good choice to be paired with light tackle or a light-action surf rod, because you’re likely to bite off more fighting fish than you can easily reel in with that kind of setup.
Best Baits for Surf Fishing at Night You Should Try
The best baits are going to be ones that have an overpowering scent to them, noise, or that can create a lot of water displacement. Due to low visibility in the water, you want baits that will attract fish in other ways.
Remember that rigging live or cut bait at night can be very hard, especially if you do not have any light on you.
Squid is one of the top baits for surf fishing that can be used at night as well. It attracts many different types of fish species like striped bass, snapper, catfish, pollock, rays, and more.
Surf fishing with squid is almost always a good idea. Squid can be found in your local bait shops and grocery stores.
There are different techniques for preparing squid. And choosing the right method can make all the difference when it comes to surf fishing at night.
So, what are our options?
- You can use the whole squid, depending on how big of a fish you are after.
- You can cut it into strips or rings, use the tentacles, or the head as bait.
Both methods can work very well, but there is something more. When preparing their squid, anglers usually gut it and clean it.
And this is perfectly fine if you will be fishing during the day in normal light conditions. But it may not be as good of an idea during the night.
You see, many anglers prefer fishing with the so-called dirty squid. An unwashed squid means that you do not clean or gut the squid.
When you leave the guts and everything else as it is, this preserves the squid’s natural scent and aroma.
When the squid is thrown in the water, the strong scent can attract fish a lot more efficiently than a clean squid. This can also mimic an injured squid, further spiking the interest of fish.
You can also use the head of the squid, which, when hooked, will produce that distinct ink stain in the water, which can also work well as bait.
And last but not least, using live squid as bait is also a good option as it will create a lot of water movement.
Overall, squid is one of the best baits you can go with. It is recommended to use fresh squid. Using old or frozen squid will not always produce excellent results, and as it thaws, it tends to create a lot of mess.
A lot of anglers love using eels as bait for a few reasons. When they are on the hook, they are still alive, they are very energetic, lively, and produce a lot of water movement.
This is excellent, especially during the night when the visibility is low. Fish will be able to sense that water movement right away, and it will go for it.
The next thing is that the eels are very tough. This means that they will not fall off the hook easily, and fish will not steal them.
Eels can be used to catch many different types of fish species; however, it is almost a must-have bait if you will be going after striped bass. It has become common to use eels for stripers (there is even an eel-skin rig that fishermen sometimes use).
The eel will try and hide if there is a structure on the bottom, so you may need to be careful not to let it do that by retrieving the line.
Eels are very hard to hold with a hand because they are very slippery and wriggle very aggressively. You can use an old rag or towel or toss them in the sand for some better grip.
Another thing that makes eels such a cool bait is that it is easy to keep them alive. Placing them in a bucket full of water or with some ice is going to be more than enough for them to stay alive for hours.
Shrimp is the number two best bait when it comes to surf fishing. For the best results, use fresh and alive shrimp. These will produce some good water movement and a lot of noise, which will attract fish easily.
Many anglers use frozen shrimp during the day, but for night surf fishing, this is not going to be as effective. Also, make sure not to use cooked shrimp as it does not provide for productive fishing.
Cut bait, especially when fresh, can be used quite successfully for catching fish at nighttime. The specific aroma and scent from the fish will travel through the water and attract other fish species looking for easy prey.
At night you can even catch sharks and stingrays that way. Anything that is typically found in the area where you are fishing can do for a very productive night of surf fishing.
You can try to use minnows, mackerel, panfish, bonito, mullet, anchovies, sardines, menhaden, etc. When using baitfish, make sure to follow the local regulations because there could be some limitations.
And last but not by importance are the bloodworms. There are also other types of worms that you can use like earthworms and sandworms, but I find it that bloodworms will produce the best bites when surf fishing at night.
Bloodworms are called that because they are filled with blood.
And this is precisely what makes them an outstanding bait for fishing at night. Once they are rigged, they will release a lot of scent and blood in the water.
This is going to be very attractive to all the fish as it mimics an injured prey that they can easily feed on.
You can find them in most bait shops, and they come in different sizes. A bigger bloodworm does not necessarily mean that you will catch a bigger fish, especially during the night. Both smaller and bigger worms alike work very well.
The only advantage is that bigger worms may have more blood and thus stronger scent to them and that they are usually a little tougher and will stay on the hook for longer.
They have tiny teeth that can bite you, and trust me on this one; it is not the world’s best feeling. So be careful.
What Makes Surf Fishing at Night Different?
Choosing the right lures and baits will help tremendously. Going surf fishing at the best possible time is not 100% necessary. But it is recommended. Besides, it will make things extra fun.
During the night, the low light conditions are why surf fishing at night can be either very productive or a little disaster.
During the night, the vast majority of fish and baitfish will be feeding near the water’s top. In clear water, full moon, and no clouds, fish may be found in depths up to 20 feet.
In less clear waters, lower moon phases, or cloudy nights, this depth can decrease, and fish will be found close to the surface. Generally speaking, no deeper than 5 to 15 feet.
During a new moon, the light conditions and visibility will be very low. This is when the night is the darkest. And if you cannot see, the fish cannot see either.
This means a few things for us as anglers
- If fish cannot see well in these conditions, then it will stay closer to places with a structure where it will be safe; and
- Fish cannot rely on its vision, so we need to attract it using its other senses: it’s sensory and smells capabilities.
And this is what we need to base our baits and lures around if we are going to be surf fishing at night, especially in low light conditions.
When the visibility is better during a full moon, you can make do even with the standard lures and baits that you use during the day. Although the bites may not be as good as during the day, it can be done.
What Are the Characteristics of the Best Baits and Lures for Surf Fishing at Night?
A few characteristics of baits and lures can make them either good or just plain average when it comes to surf fishing at night.
There are a few things that you need to pay attention to and take into account.
- You want big baits and lures that can displace a lot of water;
- You want a lure that can create a lot of noise when thrown into the water;
- Or you want to use baits and lures that have a strong scent to them. Alternatively, you can add scent to your lure or bait using a bait scent gel; and
- You want a lure that has an appropriate color or shade to it that can easily be seen in the water.
The Best Lure Colors for Surf Fishing at Night
Usually, once can argue whether or not the color matters when there is low visibility. Frequently it is down to the right shades and what you feel confident fishing with.
A few concepts anglers follow, like matching the shade and the color of the lure with your surroundings.
If there is no light, there are many clouds, or you are kayaking, darker lures are best. Darker colors are preferred because silhouettes are essential for fish in low light conditions. And a darker lure will be easier to track when the fish looks up.
In comparison, if there is a lot of light from the moon or surrounding ambient light from the town, lighter lures will do better.
However, in my opinion, this may or may not always be the best choice to go with. I like to have a more level-headed approach and feel like if the fish go after a certain colored type of bait during the day, it will go after it during the night as well.
Many anglers have been having success using white, green pumpkin, even black and light blue colored lures.
What Is the Best Scent You Can Use for Your Lures When Surf Fishing at Night?
The next thing that you will be relying on when surf fishing at night is your lures’ scent. If you are using cut bait or any other fresh bait, these are good to go as is. You will not need to add any scent to then.
But with lures, some extra scent for enticing the fish can go a long way. One of the excellent things about this is that we can mask the scent we leave on the lures and giving them more natural to their environment smell.
There are primarily two types of lure scent that you can get today:liquid-based or gel-based.
Some of the most commonly used and popular scents that attract fish are salmon eggs, catfish, shad, carp, muskie, bass, earthworms, herring, garlic, shrimp, and pike.
Do Glowing Lures Work for Surf Fishing at Night?
Maybe you have come across some of the glowing lures when browsing your local tackle shop and have wondered how effective they will be for night fishing.
Of course, we are not talking about some brightly flashing lures that will blind the fish. Most of these should emit a very low-level light. Just enough to mimic some other natural baitfish. These may or may not work for you.
Surf fishing at night with glowing lures may attract some fish while spook and scare away some other fish like the striped bass. Overall the effectiveness of glowing lures is somewhat questionable.
You can even experiment with some glow in the dark paint, which you can apply on a lure and see how it goes.
When Fishing at Night, Be Prepared for Big Ones
Regardless of what kind of lure you ultimately decide to go with for night surf fishing, the major thing you need to be aware of is that due to the behavior of fish at night versus during the day.
You’re going to be dealing with a broader range of sizes and species of fish under cover of darkness than you would be dealing with at dawn or dusk.
When fishing at night, you’ll need to be prepared for everything from a bluefish to a sand shark since larger fish are the norm at night when beach fishing.
Be sure to bring hooks, weights, and lures that are large enough to handle them. Besides that, you’ll also need a rod and reel that are sturdy enough to be able to cast them out.
You don’t have to just stop at lures when it comes to night fishing, either. Adding live or cut bait to a lure can greatly increase your chances of drawing in a strike from a fish by attracting fish that hunt primarily by sight, and those that hunt primarily by scent as well.
A good idea for night fishing any kind of lure is to use a leader line. This helps protect your main line from abrasion in the surf zone and will keep your line from being bitten through if you end up hooking something aggressive and toothy.
Night Fishing Is Fun With The Right Baits And Lures
Most of us fish during the day, and surf fishing at night takes some time getting used to it. Everything is the same, but at the same time a little different.
The low visibility and other things can make surf fishing dangerous, so extra care is advised, especially if you are into wading. It takes time. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.