Be it causeway bridge lights or canal green lights, kayak fishing at night is a great option for chasing down trout and redfish. A yak allows you the stealth to approach a light with caution and the mobility to fish a whole series of lights. Night kayaking can be an exhilarating experience but it is not for the novice, and requires some special care and equipment. It is a good idea to fish with one or more kayakers on your first outing. It also helps if you have paddled the area during the day. Things can look very different at night.
Required Gear for Night Kayaking
Lighting System. Kayakers are required to display a white light with unobstructed 360-degree visibility. A quick visit to www.ACK.com reveals several options for LED/flag combos that get your light high above the water’s surface. You don’t want to be so stealthy that boats are running you down.
Personal Flotation Device. The USCG requires that a life jacket be readily accessible, but it strongly recommended that kayakers wear one at all times, especially at night. Plus, most type III fishing specific PFDs are riddled with pockets and double as a wearable tackle box.
Whistle or Horn. It needs to be audible up to a half a mile away. A loud whistle is easily kept in one of your PFD’s pockets.
Headlamp. This is crucial. A headlamp keeps your hands free and lets you see what you’re doing when tying knots or dealing with a landed fish. Choose a water resistant lamp like the Princeton Tec EOS.
Anchor. Spend more time fishing by keeping yourself properly situated with an anchor. This is a good strategy for relatively calm canals but keep in mind that not all locations are safe for you to set anchor. For example, there is debris below the Galveston Causeway that can snag your anchor; this combined with a fast flowing tide can flip you over. Try using a drift chute in this situation; it will keep you within casting distance longer without creating a dangerous situation.
Multiple Rods. If you have this luxury, and the rod holder space, it saves time to have two or more rods rigged with different lures if you encounter finicky fish. You don’t want to be bogged down changing lures when the bite is hot.
Cellphone or VHF. Carry in a waterproof bag. You never know what might happen out on the water.
Neighborhood canal or pier lights. This is a touchy and heavily discussed subject that draws many opinions. But the fact is these lights are in public water and can be fished by the public. That being said, you are not paying the electric bill and should be respectful to these homeowners.
Be quiet. Tidal flow and moon phase is always a factor but some of the best fishing happens after midnight. If you are lucky and can fish on weekdays be as quiet as you can. Avoid pointing your headlamp toward properties. Don’t drop your anchor loudly into the kayak but rather bring it in gently. If you are with a group of kayakers do not yell or talk loudly. If the dog starts barking and won’t stop? It’s time to move.
Be friendly. If you come upon a populated pier or dock say hello and ask if it is okay to fish. Many bay houses are vacation rentals and the inhabitants may not be interested in fishing. But other times, people are waiting for fish to really crowd the light before they begin their effort. If they ask you to leave, be respectful, be courteous and move on.
Respect property. Never, ever tie off to any private dock or structure. The water is public but the dock is not. You could be mistaken for a thief and that is not something you want to do in Texas. Also avoid casting too close to any structure or directly to an underwater green light. If you snag these objects you lose a lure and piss off a homeowner in one fell swoop. Plus, the big fish are usually on the edge of the light’s reach.
Just Move. Some homeowners feel very strongly about you fishing their lights. Don’t feel too bad if the light you are fishing suddenly goes dark. It happens. It is the homeowner’s right to keep their lights on or off. Just move. If someone comes out and starts yelling, cursing or insulting all you hold dear, don’t get sucked in. Keep your cool and just move.
Causeway or “public” lights. Stay out of the middle of channels and high traffic areas. Be aware of fast flowing currents and tidal changes. If the light you intend to fish is occupied, find another one.