Fishing at night is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had while fishing. My own preference is fishing from piers at night, but I’ve also had some great experience fishing from the shore.
What Is the Fishing at Night Experience All About?
In Florida, the hot summer sun (and even the winter sun!) can cut short your day of fishing because you get burnt too much, you get dehydrated, or it’s just plain uncomfortable after hours in the blazing hot sun. Even if you’re catching lots of fish, eventually the discomfort of the very hot and direct sun can be too much to face.
With night fishing, you don’t have to worry about that at all. With sun removed from the equation, you can stay out fishing all night. Twelve hour straight fishing, or even an entire weekend of fishing from Friday night to Sunday afternoon is possible! I’ve pulled many of these short marathon night-fishing sessions and I can’t recall a bad one!
Best Places for Night Fishing?
My two favorite places for fishing at night in Florida are the Gandy Pier on the St. Petersburg side (West Coast of Florida near Tampa) and the old Sunshine Skyway bridge, which has been turned into a huge fishing pier. Either one is great, but I’d have to say that due to the better facilities, more space, and being able to park the RV right beside where I’m fishing, the Sunshine Skyway Pier cannot be beaten. Other notable piers on Florida’s West coast are the Clearwater and Fort Myers Piers. Check them out too if they’re close to you.
I think I’ve mentioned before, probably in the Pier Fishing guide here, that I love packing my truck or RV up and going to the Sunshine Skyway Pier to fish from Friday night until at least mid-afternoon on Saturdays. I bring a grill, charcoal, chairs, pillows, music, food, beer, snacks, extra clothes in case it gets chilly, and sometimes even a tent and air mattress. Not joking. When I go night fishing here, it’s like I’m camping because there’s little difference.
The pier is safe to fish at night from, and there will be other people and small groups doing the same. It’s hard to come up with a better way to spend a weekend with your family or buddies than pier fishing at night. It’s a social event, a competition, a picnic, a camping excursion, and an adventure all-in-one!
I’ve never seen a fight on the pier during the day or night. I’ve never seen a problem really except when someone turns their music too loud. Usually, there’s no problem, and sometimes the music is good and not worth complaining about. A lot of people fishing bring their own alcohol because there is very rarely any visit from any police. It’s just a really chill spot to relax and catch some fish at your own pace.
The Gandy Bridge pier is just an old bridge that used to stretch across Tampa Bay and now is a nice fishing pier. This pier is a great place to catch tarpon and mahi-mahi (dorado) at night. There is also a lot of bioluminescence sometimes at night. When the mahi mahi rip through it fast, they leave incredibly cool S-paths through it that glow. It’s really amazing and worth going just to experience this! Kids will be amazed.
The fish you catch at these piers at night can be so varied. At times you will catch flounder, grouper, sheepshead, snapper, sharks, snook, mahi mahi, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, and others. Sometimes you’ll get a surprise, like a Goliath Grouper or something huge like that. Catching sharks is common, and I’ve caught too many of them to be honest, when I wasn’t trying.
Bring All Your Fishing Gear!
One cool thing about fishing at night from the piers, or anytime, is that you can bring all your rods and set them up to catch different species. You can target grouper with one rod/reel, and snapper with another, sharks with another rig, and so on. I usually have at least 6 rods and reels going at the same time and there’s almost always action.
A lot of anglers put cow-bells on their rods so they can hear them ringing because at night it’s natural to doze off while sleeping in a comfortable reclining deck chair or lounge chair after midnight and a couple of beers!
You’ll probably do well to bring a strong light to aim at the water. A flashlight or headlamp works great. You’ll attract the smaller fish which in turn attracts the bigger fish like snook or something else. Some people really step it up to another level and drop chum in at night with a light. The combination is deadly and you’ll definitely be catching something with this setup.
Both of these piers are big enough that you can spread out as people leave and get far enough from the nearest other group to keep some privacy. That is, unless you’re right by the baitshop/restrooms. There are always people near there and you won’t likely ever have the place to yourself. Some people like that, and they talk all night to strangers. It can really be a social activity and it can be a place to meet others into the fishing hobby. I’ve met hundreds of people over the years, some I saw again later and some never again. There can be some interesting stories though, that much is sure!
Cautions, Precautions, and Things to Be Aware Of While Night Fishing
Don’t forget your mosquito lotion or spray and electric racquet for them, they can thick in the night and there’s nothing to destroy a fishing trip quicker than constantly fighting the beasts.
You should always have a first aid kit in the car for accidents and little emergencies like a hook in the finger, a cut, a splinter, etc. If your car is close by as you fish, you should just keep a good first aid kit in there to use on the road as well – right?
Go with a friend, it’s safer. It’s usually more fun. At least one friend but maybe a few. Make it a social event. Cook your food on a grill while you’re there. Bring LOTS of ice in ice-chests.
There are sometimes some bad people on the pier. Theft isn’t usually a common occurence, but it happens in the hours after midnight when some people are passed out drunk in their vehicles, some with their legs hanging out. Gear can go missing. Sometimes someone gets drunk and causes trouble. You may get lucky where you fish on a pier and there will be a security guard that can help deal with people. They are usually retirees, so don’t expect too much.
Bring some warmer clothes. Piers are up off the water and if it’s windy and anytime after December, the air in Florida can turn chilly at night and with the constant wind-chill, you’ll definitely feel it. Bring rain gear too. Don’t put up umbrellas, they’re like lightning rods. When you see lightning, wait out the storm in your vehicle. Florida gets a LOT of lightning each year. Fishing on top of a pier over water is not a safe place to be during a storm.
Night fishing for me is so much fun that If I had just a year to live, I’d spend a good portion of it fishing from piers, and especially at night when it’s cooler, quieter, and so much more peaceful than during the daytime.
If you haven’t gone night fishing yet, you owe it to yourself to get out there and experience and enjoy this unique activity.