If fishing at night appeals to your adventerous side, follow these tips from Kayak Angler editor Ben Duchesney to maximize your chances of staying safe and catching a real monster.

With the right gear and some precautions fishing at night can be just as fun and as safe as fishing during the day. Use these tips to stay alive when the world goes dark and make it back to the launch in one piece…so you can go out again the next night.

1) Light It Up

A highly visible light source while fishing at night is the easiest way to stay safe on the water. A light pole, one that can be seen from 360 degrees (so make sure it is taller than your head, so your head doesn’t block out the light), can keep you from being run over by a boater who’s enjoying a nighttime cruise. Avoid the green and red navigation lights on your bow or stern, because although they are highly visible, these signal a boat under power, so a boat may expect you to get out of their way faster than you can, which could end badly.

Reflective tape is another great way to make sure that you’re highly visible. Available at most hardware or marine supply stores, reflective tape can be quickly and easily placed anywhere to make your boat light up like the sun when it’s met with even the tiniest light source, even the moon. Place the reflective tape all over your kayak, PFD, and crate.

2) PFDs Please

Yes, I include this in every how to post, you know why? It’s the most important thing you can do to get ready. Not only will wearing your PFD  increase your chances of being seen (after you’ve added your reflective tape from tip #1), but it will also make sure that you stay afloat if you’ve accidentally flipped or have to jump before being run over.

If you get knocked out at night, there’s a much greater chance that your buddies won’t be able to find out, or other boaters won’t be able to see you in the water, so make sure you give yourself the best odds possible.

Someone standing in front of the camera zipping up a fish pfd.

3) Keep Your Head On A Swivel

Paying attention at night sounds useless if you can’t see as far, but a kayak doesn’t travel fast enough for things to sneak up on you, unless you’re fishing a fast moving river of course. While you’re fishing, keep your head up and routinely flash a light ahead of you and all around you, to make sure you’re not about to run over a dam or paddle straight into a tree or into your buddy.

A waterproof headlamp, with full batteries and a backup stored in an easy-to-reach dry bag, will make sure you have a way to flash around, get your wits, help change lures, and let you now what’s ahead. It’s also better than a traditional flashlight, because it’ll keep your hands free for changing lures or paddling.

4) Buddy Up

Fishing with a buddy is always a smart idea, but at night this is almost crucial. If you were to fall out when you’re alone, there’s a greater chance that you won’t be able to get back into your boat, because you may not be able to see it once you fall out. Plus, the darker water is more likely to cause you to panic, unless you’re a zen master, because of all the things that go bump in the night.

A buddy will not only help you to remain calm should you fall out, and be there to assist you in getting back in, but they can also make sure you’re having fun. Being alone on a lake in the dark fishing can get boring fast, and even spooky once you start seeing eyes along the bank, but a buddy and some lively conversation can keep things as cheery as fishing on a bright, sunny day.

2 fishing kayakers stand over their fishing kayaks in the sunshine.

5) Blaze A Trail

The most common way anglers get stuck on the water is losing track of the put in or the takeout trail. The easiest way to make sure you can always make it back to the truck is to keep a blaze orange, highly reflective rag or roll of tape handy in your truck. Before you push off of dry land, attach the rag or tape to a tall branch that allows it to swing in the breeze. Then with just a flash of your headlamp from tip #3 you can find the trail and get back to the truck.

Make sure the rag will not blow in the wind too much and wrap itself around a branch and become hidden from your view. Also make sure to keep it high enough that the tide won’t come up and cover it, but still not too high that the moon or stars are behind it, as the backlit rag will be much harder to see.

6) Make Yourself Heard

A marine VHF radio will not only allow you to talk to your buddies and let everyone know that it’s time to head back to the launch (unless you and your buddies are so diehard that you wait until sunrise, in which case, we salute you), but it will also let you alert an oncoming boater of your position. Learn to use a marine VHF the right way so you don’t accidentally make a call to the US Coast Guard, because although you might like the small talk, they sure won’t.


  1. It’s important to point out that if you are going to rig your entire boat with an official array of running lights (not required, but often a safer move), be aware that you are signaling experienced boaters that your running lights infer you understand the rules of the road…knowing how to pass, how to yield, etc. If you are going to run the full range of light positions and colors on your kayak, make sure you know the rules and what other boats may be expecting of your movement through the water.


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