Yes, You can go surf fishing at night. There are a few things you’ll want to check on before you head out, but you absolutely can surf fish at night. You’ll want to make sure you can park at the beach you choose, bring the right gear and tackle and plan appropriately for the night so we’ll cover all that below.
Is Surf Fishing at Night Productive?
Like all forms of fishing, there’s a reason it’s called “fishing” and not “catching”. But, yes. Surf fishing at night can be just as productive as surf fishing in the daytime if you know what you’re doing. Some species are actually easier to target at night and there are certainly pros and cons to fishing after dark.
Do Fish Come Closer to the Shore at Night?
Throughout all the research I did prior to writing this article, it seemed to be a common belief that big fish come closer to the shoreline at night. The reasoning is a combination of nocturnal feeding, fewer disturbances (caused by humans), and added opportunity for ambush and stealth hunting. I’ll continue to answer this question in the subsection below.
What Can You Catch at Night?
This could be true for some species and not for others. In my experience, surf fishing for sharks is good at night but I haven’t experimented much with other styles of surf fishing at night.
Light tackle surf fishing with a Carolina rig at night for corbina, yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker etc. remains decent at night but I believe it’s better during the daytime especially for corbina. You’ll likely catch more yellowfin croaker, guitarfish and other rays and small sharks at night using this method.
If you’re in Central or Nor Cal, night fishing for striped bass can be very productive. If you’re lucky enough to live in So Cal, try fishing during a grunion run. This can make shark fishing and lure fishing very productive. I mention this because this is the one phenomenon, in my experience, that brings the bigger predator fish in closer to shore at night time. You can catch calico, white seabass, barracuda, halibut, and other predator species of fish during grunion runs.
What’s a Grunion Run?
Curious what a grunion run is? During the spring and summer months, small baitfish make their way onto the sandy shoreline on nights of full and new moons for 4 (predicted) nights in a row. Females lay their eggs high up in the sand around peak high tide and males follow them to fertilize the eggs. When grunion run, big fish follow them and all bets are off as to what you might catch. Check out this photo below of the fish my buddy caught while surf fishing during a grunion run this year.
Can Fish See Lures at Night?
Yes, fish can see lures at night. Well, I can’t say that as fact, but I can say that fish certainly still bite lures at night. Often, fishing with lures at night is even more productive than fishing with lures in daylight. I’ve had a few sessions fishing at night with lures during grunion runs that resulted in bites and hook ups like you wouldn’t believe.
Take for example the photo above. That fish was caught on a live grunion, but I was fishing with one of my favorite lures for surf fishing and I caught more fish than anyone that night… 7 fish to 1, actually. But, none of my fish were as big as my buddy’s in the photo, unfortunately.
The best bait for surf fishing at night is whatever the fish are feeding on that night. With grunion runs, it’s a no brainer. Live or dead grunion or even lures that mimic grunion are the best bait. For sharks, it’ll typically be cut bait of some sorts. For croaker and all the other light tackle stuff, stick with sand crabs. Pretty much the same baits that work in the day time work at night.
You might find reason to believe scent plays a larger role while surf fishing at night and you may be right. With less reliance on sight due to a lack of visibility, fish might rely heavily on their sense of smell. So, smelly baits like squid, cut bait, clam and mussel etc. are good options.
Tips for Surf Fishing at Night
Always go into a session with a solid plan, especially if you’re new to it. You should plan your surf fishing trip just as you would if it were during the daytime. Check the tides, check the surf prediction, check the wind etc.
Check the Tides
The most important factor to consider when choosing the best tides for surf fishing at night is to ensure your beach has enough sand in correlation to the tidal height. If the tide is too high, some beaches may run out of sand as the waves will push you up against bluffs etc. Plan ahead and be safe.
Check the Surf Forecast
Like any other day, your best off not fishing high surf. Your ideal surf height should be below 4 feet. The lower the better. As a general rule of thumb, a prediction of 2-3 feet is good and a prediction of 1-2 or lower is phenomenal. A prediction of 3-4 is eh… and 4-5 and up is a no-go. Websites like surfline.com and magicseaweed.com are good resources for surf and tidal forecasts.
Avoid High Winds
Treat winds like you would the surf height; the lower, the better. Surf fishing in the wind can be an absolute pain and if you can avoid high winds, you’re off to a great start. I’ll touch on the best conditions for surf fishing at night later in this article but that’s the gist.
Be Cautious When Wading (Rogue Waves)
Safety should always be of concern, especially when one of your most relied upon senses is heavily diminished due to lack of visibility. Be careful when you’re wading out in the water as you might not see a building wave that could knock you over.
Check to See if the Parking Lot Closes
Some beaches have gates and curfews. State parks and other city funded parks or parking lots frequently close their lots at night to deter overnight parking etc., so be sure to check and make sure the lot which you intend to park at doesn’t close prior to when you plan on leaving.
Bring a Buddy
I get it. I like to fish alone often too. It’s nice to get away from the world and spend some time with nobody but the beautiful ocean and the fishies. But, even I think surf fishing at night is better with a buddy. You feel safer, even if there’s no reason to feel unsafe, and you’ve got an extra set of hands to help with your catch and your photos.
Fish a Beach You’re Familiar With
Fishing a beach that you’re familiar with can also be safer than exploring a beach for the first time at night. You’ll know the terrain and where the tidal heights put you in terms of slants or rocks on the beach. You’ll also know the areas that typically produce as you won’t have your vision to read the surf and pick out the best fishing spots.
If arriving before dark is an option, consider taking the opportunity. This will allow you to rig up in the daylight (if you haven’t already), and it will allow you to see where you’re fishing, pick out good-looking spots, and catch bait if you need to.
There’s also something really special about the sunset bite. In all my years of fishing, I don’t think there’s a more consistent time of day to catch fish. Sunset is the best time to catch fish.
Why You Should Surf Fish at Night
Surf fishing after dark has a few perks that the daylight hours don’t offer. The first and most obvious is the fact that you won’t have to battle crowds. Fewer people in the water means you’ll have the beach to yourself and the fish won’t spook as easily. As mentioned above, it’s also certainly possible that larger fish come closer to the beach at night.
The list goes on, like how you can’t really get sun burnt at night and how it’;; usually be nice and cool at night (in the summertime at least).
Shore fishing at night can be challenging. With a lack of visibility, you won’t be able to see things you’d be able to during daylight hours. Tracking where your line is after you cast can be tough. Spotting good fishing spots and structure is very difficult when you can’t rely on your eyes. My best advice is to remain confident and fish what, where, and how you know works.
Best Time for Surf Fishing
There’s only one true way to determine when the best time for surf fishing is and it’s to get out there and fish as much as you can, whenever you can. As you keep track of which times and tides are best for surf fishing, you’ll be able to narrow down when your best shot it. Good luck out there catching fish at night and as always, reach out if you have any questions!