The long days of summer are now behind us. And the only daylight to be found just so happens to occur when most of us are sitting in the office. Because of this the majority of ice fisherman fall into the weekend warrior category. They battle crowds so they can get onto the water while the sun is out. Which begs the question, can you ice fish at night? Is it worth it to suffer the cold and dark just so you can catch a few fish? Will the fish even bite!?
Not only can you ice fish at night and be successful, but it can one of the most lucrative times to do so. You may be looked at a little strangely by friends, family members, and even other fisherman. After all you’re willing to go out on ice, in the dark, in freezing cold temperatures to catch fish. But this is the time where several species are feeding the most. And many larger fish only feed under the cover of darkness. Which means this could be an excellent opportunity to catch the biggest fish in the lake.
There are only a few subtle differences between ice fishing at night and during the day. Because of the cooler temperatures you’ll definitely need to be wearing an extra layer or two. As well as bringing some extra lights that you can use inside of your tent to ensure you can still tie knots, unhook fish, and to see exactly where your holes are drilled. Other than adding these extra items there is not too much of a difference. You’ll still have the opportunity to catch fish and a diverse amount on top of that.
What Species of Fish Can You Catch
Despite the cold temperatures and dark surroundings there are plenty of fish trolling the water looking for a meal. You’ll be able to catch most of if not all the species in your lake while ice fishing.
However, there are some that feed much more exclusively at night time. Those are Crappie, and Walleye. These fish take advantage of the time right before dusk and into the night to swim freely and ambush their prey.
Although Crappie and Walleye are going to be most prevalent, don’t be surprised if you hook up with a bass, catfish, trout, pike or a muskie. Of course, this all depends on what your lake holds, but the potential to catch all of these species in one night is there.
Just because you’re fishing at night time doesn’t mean you have to use different strategies to catch these fish. You can hook up a wax worm on a jig head or a minnow on a jigging spoon with ease. These fish are actively feeding which means they’re on the look out for food. They won’t have an issue targeting in on your bait just because the sun has been set for a few hours.
However, if you want to get fancy you can come equipped with glow lights or glow jigs that allow the fish the ability to see you lure. The glow light hooks up to a small battery and the glowing green orb is placed into the water through a hole in the ice. This attracts small bait fish which in turn brings in the larger crappie and walleye.
You can also use glow baits that give off a shine in the water. There are some anglers who say this kind of fishing is cheating, but as the old NASCAR adage goes, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’”.
Where on The Lake Should You Fish
When you tell your coworkers your going fishing after work you may get a lot of “can you ice fish at night?”, “how can the fish see?”, and my personal favorite, “what are you crazy?”
It’s best to fish a lake you know well at night time. The lower than normal temperatures on top of the fact that you cannot see makes it more dangerous than the day. So, knowing exactly where to go and where you need to be will benefit you greatly.
Before heading out do some research and look for some of the following areas.
- Major Points
- Weedlines and weedbeds near drop offs
- Any areas that have a lot of permanent ice houses.
What Gear to Bring When Ice Fishing at Night
The Key to ice fishing at night is to double check before you leave that you have everything with you. Due to the sun currently shining on the other side of the world, there will be a severe lack of light. This means you’re going to have to haul a little bit more gear than normal to ensure to you a safe and comfortable trip.
Besides your normal fishing tackle, you’ll need to bring some lights for the inside of your fishing trap. There are several different types of LED lighting systems you can use to hook up inside your tent and light up everything you need so that you can comfortably maneuver around and continue to tie knots without issue.
Also, don’t forget to bring head lamps for easy hands-free movement while traveling back and forth across the ice and also while setting up for the night.
Ensure that the outside of your tent is outfitted with reflectors or you’ve hung lights on all four corners. This lets anyone out on a snowmobile or a 4-wheeler know that there is a structure up ahead. Some companies even make white fish tents for night time use. The lighter color allows for better visibility inside as well and could save you money on having to purchase multiple light to illuminate a darker tent.
Check the weather before you head out to see just how cold it is going to get. Chances are you are going to need wear an extra layer or two in order to stay warm. It also doesn’t hurt to bring some hot hands. This works great to keep your digits from going numb and can really help out if you wind up getting your hands wet by accident.
Is it Legal to Ice Fish at Night
After researching all 50 states rules in regards to ice fishing, I could not find anywhere stating that it’s illegal to go ice fishing at night. It seems as though that as long as you follow the same rules at night as you would during daylight hours, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
With that being said, there are some states where using artificial lights to attract fish is illegal. I know for sure that Minnesota is one of those states.
If you have any doubts, it’s always a good idea to check your specific states laws.
Remember that going out at night time already brings more danger than during the day. Always remember to bring the proper safety equipment with you as well as dressing for the weather.
Fishing at night can be extremely worthwhile. Many species actively feed at this time and the always the possibility of breaking a personal best whether it be quality or quantity.
Picking out a day at work where you know you can slink out a little early in order to hit the ice before the sun fully sets can allow for quick set up, and lets you get on top of that sunset bite. When its all said and done bring home some slabs of crappie and fry them up for dinner. I can think of no better way to finish off a day.
And when that coworker stops you from walking out the door early by asking “can you ice fish at night?” You can give a resounding “Yes. And if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got fish to catch.”