Night fishing can be productive at times and very enjoyable, especially during the hot summer months, but it comes with some disadvantages as well. Not being able to see well and being eaten alive by mosquitoes and other bugs are two of the biggest challenges. In this article we’ll take a look at night fishing lights and some options that will help not only with visibility in your working area but with the bug problems as well.
As I mentioned my article about Night Fishing Facts and Fiction, lack of visibility at night is without a doubt the biggest challenge that anglers deal with when catfishing at night. From not being able to see in the area you are working when baiting hooks, tying catfish rigs everything else to not being able to see in the area you are fishing, to not being able to see when navigating your catfish boat.
From inexpensive and simple to a bit more costly and complex there are a variety of good options for night fishing lights you to consider the next time you hit the water.
If you are night fishing from a boat, you should always make sure you have a proper bow and stern light and assure you are in compliance with state and local laws for your area.
My First Venture In Mounting Night Fishing Lights In My Catfish Boat
Years ago I had a 1960’s model Delhi Jon Boat that my family had owned for years. I took this on as a restoration project to turn it into a better suited catfish boat adding a fishfinder, hard wiring bow and stern lights and adding a variety of other “creature comforts” to soup the boat up a little.
During this process I decided to add some 12 volt tractor lights to both sides of the boat mounted on the gunnels near the middle of the boat. I mounted them using la bolts and set them up so they could swivel left and right so I could light up the floor of the boat or the water, as well as use them for running lights for navigation.
The part I didn’t consider however was that when I flipped the switch on these lights I was instantly in a swarm of mosquitoes and other bugs I didn’t particularly care to be in. It was so bad you couldn’t even breathe because you would inhale bugs.
After years of having a yellow light bulb for a porch light I considered using yellow light instead of the white but set off on a quest to find something better.
Does Light and Light Color Effect Catfish?
One of the areas I spent a considerable amount of time studying years ago was not only what color light was best for reducing the bugs in the area but also how the light affected the fish. One thing I found was that white light has more effect on catfish that any other color of light.
These white lights will draw in threadfin shad, gizzard shad and other bait fish, but the catfish have tendency to shy away from bright white lights. That’s not to say they will never venture into these lights because you will see it happen from time to time.
I experimented with fishing around lights and also shining my own lights onto the water and monitoring the catfish behavior during this time. Occasionally a catfish would venture into the light but most often they would stay away. In almost every instance when I was fishing in a totally dark area and shined a bright white light onto the water, the catfish would scatter outside the light.
Because of this I have since stayed away from using bright white lights directly in the area I am catfishing, or at least keeping them from shining directly on the water when possible.
What Color Light Should You Use For Night Fishing Lights?
Red, White and Black are really the three big questions here. Let’s take a closer look at each different color of light and the advantages and disadvantages.
White – White light provides the greatest visibility of all the options. It is certainly easier to see what you are doing but it comes with a price. White light attracts more bugs than any other color of light and will also “spook” the fish as well.
Black – Black light provides fair visibility, but doesn’t attract bugs (or at least minimal bugs). The tradeoff for not attracting bugs is not being able to see quite as well. The major advantage (outside of not attracting bugs) is black light makes many colors “glow” when the black light shines on them. Everything from fishing line to fishing rods will light up and be easier to see when you are using a black light.
Red – Red light is the clear winner in my book and in my opinion outperforms all other options when it comes to lights for night fishing. While visibility is not as good with red light as it is with white, I still find it very easy to see when using the red color. In addition to having good visibility red light does not attract bugs, and it also doesn’t affect the catfish. You can shine bright red light directly on the water in the area you are fishing and it has no effect on the fish, the swim around directly in the red light and appear to be unaffected.
Hard Mounted Lights and Light Towers (Battery Powered)
Hard wiring lights are certainly an option. Whether fishing from a catfish boat or from the shore you can mount lights at a relative low cost. These solutions will focus primarily on fishing from a boat but certainly if you fish from the shore you can mount similar lights in (or on) a truck and also make similar devices for catching cats from shore.
The most simple of these solutions is just mounting lights directly to the gunnels, grab rails, console or any other available area of the boat. Tractor lights are inexpensive, waterproof and relatively durable and are a good option to consider when you plan to mount lights.
Light Towers – It is relatively popular to build a structure (or even just use a pole) from PVC pipe to use for “light towers” for night fishing. This can again just be a single piece of PVC pipe with a light affixed to it or can be a more complex structure with multiple upright and crossbeams.
This is a popular option for night fishing lights because you can insert them into upright fishing rod holders (see storing fishing rods easy access) and use them for night fishing and then when not in use or during transport they can be removed (a great space saver when you don’t need lights for night fishing).
One key consideration when rigging lights on a PVC pipe or a PVC structure is to use a good long piece of pipe and get the structure up as a high in the air as you can. Doing so will help draw the bugs up over your head and keep them away from your face.
The other major consideration is power. If you plan on using the lights for an extended period of time, make sure you use a dedicated power source. This can be an old car battery (or better yet a motorcycle battery). The last thing you want to do when being out on a lake or river catfishing at night is get ready to move and have a dead cranking battery on your boat.
There are a variety of options you can use for the actual light and really no right or wrong way when it comes to design. It is all a matter of customizing the design to the layout of your boat and personal preferences.
If possible, use LED lights. They draw significantly less power than the other options available but I fished for years with a cheap white clamp on light with an aluminum housing and a 100 watt light bulb in it. Over the years I have seen everything used from these cheap clamp on lights to even LED boat trailer lights mounted to these PVC pipes or structures.
LED strip lights and rope lights have become increasingly popular over the past few years and are a definite option to consider for lights for night fishing in catfish boats. LED lights put of a lot of light, draw very little power, and last for a very long time, making them a good option to consider.
A popular trend these days is to mount these LED strip lights or LED rope lights under the gunnels of the boat and even inside cabinets and compartments. Their low profile design, low cost and features already mentioned make them an excellent option to consider for lighting up the interior of your boat. These are available in a variety of colors (including red).
There are a number of companies that specialize in these LED lights and they are also abundant through online retailers you can find LED strip lights for boats on Amazon.com and eBay at very low prices.
I have not ventured into this world yet but am strongly considering putting red LED lights under the gunnels of my Xpress HD22CC, even if just for having the light when loading and unloading the boat in the morning and using them when catching shad for catfish bait in the early mornings in the dark.
Outside of all the other obvious advantages of the LED strip lights or rope lights for boats, they look really cool when they are lit up.
Product Link: LED Strip Lights For Boats On eBay
If you do a lot of night fishing having a good spotlight is an essential tool for navigation. I have used these for everything from spotting fishing jugs in the dark (with reflective tape added), to navigating in the dark, spotting deer, feral hogs, alligators and other critters along the shores, and sending SOS signals across the lake.
I even had one instance when I was night fishing in a cove and heard a boat running dangerously close to me with no lights on. I had all of my navigation lights on but was certain they had not seen me. I quick flash of the spotlight towards the water and away from the other boat caught their attention enough to get them to change course and assure the safety of my passengers and I.
The easiest (and cheapest) version of this is a battery operated handheld spotlight. For $25 to $30 you can have one of these available and they are a great tool to have on hand.
The super deluxe version of this is the “golight”. This mounts in the area of the running light on the bow and replaces the bow light (it has one built in). It has a super bright spotlight built into it and also comes with an optional remote control. This gives the driver the ability to turn the light off and on remotely and also move it from side to side.
There are hundreds if not thousands of options of lights when it comes to portable lanterns, lights and flashlights. I won’t go into detail on all of these night fishing lights but instead look at some of the more popular and noteworthy lights you should know about.
Coleman Lantern – The coleman lantern has been a staple for anglers for decades. They are inexpensive, put off a lot of light and will run for hours on a tank of fuel. The downside is they are fragile, they get very hot to the touch, and you have a burning flame inside of your boat (which could become problematic if not careful). I am simply not a fan of using these when fishing unless I am shore fishing.
One item of note in regards to the Coleman lantern is a simple way to help reduce the bugs that are attracted to them by adding a bug free globe. This is a yellow glove that replaces the clear glass globe that comes with the lanterns. Again, I feel red light is a better option than yellow but yellow is certainly better than white light.
Goober Lights The King Of Night Fishing Lights
The “goober light” is in my opinion the king of all night fishing lights. They are inexpensive, easy to use, require no installation, hands free and available in red and white light.
What’s a “goober light” you ask? It’s a small portable flashlight that you strap to your head.
I affectionately nick named these headlights goober lights because I was out night fishing one night with clients and after fishing hit the local Waffle House for a quick meal. I forgot I had the light on my head and was sitting down for a quick meal. The waitress told me she wasn’t going to serve me because it wasn’t polite to wear a goober light at the table, and the rest was history.
These lights are in my opinion the single best option when it comes to lights for night fishing.
- You can outfit everyone in the boat with one and don’t require any additional lighting.
- They have LED lights so the batteries last for months
- Many of them have red and white light built in. You can alternate as needed
- You can turn them off when you don’t need any light at all
- They are adjustable, and light up your immediate work area as needed
They are always pointed where you are looking
I have yet to find anything else as cost effective or that works as well as the headlamp for night fishing lights.
There are a variety of makes and models available and again really no right or wrong choice in this area.
I prefer to use the Rayovac Sportsman model because it can operate with a standard bulb, a single or triple LED and also a red LED which gives me a variety of options based on my needs while I am catfishing at night.
Hacking Lights With Red Lenses
One last option to consider is a simple hack for your preferred night fishing lights. If you have that perfect or favorite like you would like to use but it is a white light there is a simple “hack” you can use to change the light color to red and keep the bugs away.
Red gel filters are available through places like Amazon and are used for photographic lighting and stage lighting. They are translucent so they change the color of the light and are also made to withstand high heat. With these you can take any normal white light and add a red gel filter (taping it or gluing it) and for a few bucks you can have an effective and efficient night fishing light for a matter of a few dollars.
What Is Your Preferred Light?
[box]Do you have something different you like to use for night fishing lights? Have a simple tip or trick to help with something we have listed here? Leave a comment below and let us know.[/box]