Trout Fishing at Night – What You Need To Know

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Now and then, people will ask me what they should do differently to catch trout at night. “Take a torch, and be careful you don’t trip.”

By and large, that’s all you need to know because the vast majority of your daytime techniques, rigs, and baits will do fine. 

The only difference in the evening is you can’t see.

Trout fishing at night is awesome; all you need to do is take extra safety precautions and perhaps tweak a few techniques and gear choices for optimum fishing results.

Let’s look at trout fishing at night in a little more detail.

Night Fishing Equipment Needed

Setting up an effective night-time trout fishing pack for a boat or on land shouldn’t require many changes.

There are lures, techniques, rigs, baits, and clothing that are technically better for night fishing. 

It’s good (not critical) to adopt these changes to maximize your chances.

But the most important inclusions for late-night trout sessions will be safety equipment. 

It’s our lack of ability to see in the dark that makes night fishing potentially dangerous.

Night Time Safety Gear for the Boat

It won’t harp on too long about this. Boat safety, especially for evenings, is a topic best addressed on its own.

The changes that I make are checking redundancies and spares – particularly batteries, keys, handheld lamps, and headlamps.

The other thing I do differently is to wear a comfortable life jacket whenever I’m on the water. I make sure the reflective strips are in good order.

If they don’t have reflective strips, I add them. A life jacket like this style is ideal for nighttime ventures on most lakes and rivers.

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I will upgrade to a more appropriate bar-style life jacket for big lakes that are susceptible to serious wind and changeable weather.

If you’re fishing rivers, lakes, and streams in the dark, it’s also a good idea to have a powerful spotlight on board.

Remember to use light sparingly and only when necessary to avoid spooking the trout.

Night Time Safety Gear for Land-based Trout Fishing

Firstly, I’ll add reflective strips to my waders. Secondly, if I’m wading and alone, I’ll wear a life vest similar to the one listed above.

It’s so much easier to trip at night. I guarantee I’ll trip several times every night-time fishing session. Fortunately, it’s rarely serious, and I regain my footing.

A trip can result in hitting your head and falling unconscious. That’s why a life jacket is necessary. You can’t keep your head above water if you’re out of it.

I carry two headlamps. One is battery-powered, the other USB. 

Both are waterproof. I have two spare batteries in waterproof containers for the battery-powered headlamp.

I also carry a lantern with a strobe mode and spare batteries. My headlamps and lantern have a red mode to avoid spooking light-sensitive trout.

I carry my phone around my neck in a waterproof bag. I keep a power bank in my bag. I set an alarm to notify me of when I need to contact those I’ve told where I’m going.

If I’m going to a remote location without phone coverage, I’ll take a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)

I have a first-aid kit, and a fire-starting kit similar to this one below.

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I have a first aid kit like this one with added iodine and paracetamol. I check it every couple of months.

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While it sounds like a lot, it isn’t really, and it could save your life. Accidents are so much more likely in the dark, so it makes sense to be completely prepared.

Think seriously about fishing at a location you don’t know. If you’ve never been there, it’s best assessed during the daylight hours.

Avoid trekking off into the wilderness at night and alone. It’s easy to get lost when the sun is down.

All of this stuff is common sense. But it’s amazing how the most cautious anglers among us will forgo safety to catch fish. Think!

Night-time Trout Outfits

The best advice I can give is to fish heavier. The good news about trout and the nighttime is that the dark hours bring out monster fish.

You’ll find a dedicated band of anglers who save the evenings for chasing trophy trout. Big wily predators become a little less cautious in the evenings.

Monster trout will often lay in wait in the security of their lair during the day. It’s a safe and easy way to ambush passing meals.

Come the evening; they are known to get out and hunt actively, even aggressively. 

We can take advantage of this if we’re prepared with heavier gear. Bigger leaders, tippets, and lines aren’t a problem.

Bigger Lures

Choose lures that are a little bigger and a little nosier on retrieve – especially if it’s a particularly dark or moonless night.

Trout don’t have a special nighttime vision. They need light from direct sources or reflection to see with their eyes.

Trout, like all fish, have a lateral line on each side of their bodies that detects changes in water pressure. 

This is how they “see” at night to eat, navigate, and hide from predators. Upping the size of a lure creates a greater presence – a greater change in pressure. 

Work your lure as naturally as possible. It’s the movement and noise that the fish respond to.

It’s a rare night when there is no light. More often than not, you’ll have some level of moonlight.

Use this to your advantage, as the fish does. Any lure that is reflective produces visual signals such as flashes. This attracts the fish’s attention.

Conversely, dark-colored topwater lures are great as they produce a distinctive silhouette. 

I’ll often forgo the reflection of a shiny reflective lure for the shadow of dark-colored lures. The silhouette is deadly.

My preferred lure for nighttime trout fishing is a good old jerk bait with a tight action. And it’s so simple. Cast, and retrieve slowly. Trout fishing doesn’t get any easier than this.

I like Yo-Zuri Pins Minnows and Rapala X-Rap. They float, sink, have awesome colors, and have perfect sizes for big trout.

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Importantly, these lures cast brilliantly on heavier lines. Casting on a dark night can be a big challenge. These lures significantly reduce that challenge.

If I’m fishing deep water, I like spinners as well. But I’ll only use spinners if I don’t have live natural baits.

For spectacular results and some aerial action, cast poppers toward a bank or snag. This is one of my favorite techniques for catching trout at night.

You can use poppers up to 4+ inches – big trout love them. For noise and commotion and explosive results, get some Hula poppers in your kit.

Fly Fishing

By and large, gear selection when trout fishing at night is the same choice you make when you’re fishing during the day. It depends on the conditions you face – water, weather, etc.

Some fly anglers will have an evening outfit – usually because they’re expecting something big. I go with the outfit that I can cast the best. And you should too.

The bottom line is: Do I have the power to land a monster, and do I have the right balance for carefree casting?

I find casting at night difficult. While there’s a lot of feel in casting flies, I’ve discovered how much visual focus I put into a cast when I’ve fished at night.

The reason it’s difficult is that we lose our perception of depth and distance. It’s more difficult to land a fly exactly where we want it.

In the evening I’m not casting at specific rapids, currents, swirls, snags, etc – I can’t see them. So I adapt my technique and flies to suit.

Mousing is great for big nighttime trout. This is where you use a mouse profile fly, casting it at banks and locations where a mouse is likely to find itself falling into the water.

It’s a devastating technique for big fish, and great profiles like the Morris Mouse are readily available.

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But the best way to fish flies in the evening is to cast streamers. All you need to do is spot a likely fish-holding zone, cast, and retrieve.

Tight line fishing doesn’t require all the finesse of working a dry fly – or any other fly type. It’s like having a normal jerk bait on your line – simply cast and retrieve.

It can take a little while to work out a design that might be suitable. 

Sometimes I feel it’s better to work a few, instead of casting countless designs in a session, spending more time rigging than fishing.

Packs such as this one offer good variety and quality at a reasonable price. Go for flashy patterns for nighttime fishing – or at least start with them.

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Make some noise with them. Splash them down hard, jerk hard from a start – give it a jump or two. Your aim is to create a commotion.

Best Bait For Catching Trout At Night

Big trout, or any species of fish, prefer their meals alive. I like big minnows for the best trout results at night.

Worms should be alive, and nightcrawlers are a step again from live worms – and they should also be alive.

Live baits deliver the natural presentation you need to invite the most aggressive inquiries. When it’s alive, big trout attack hard and ask questions later.

Sometimes getting live baits is not possible. It’s at times like this I consider not fishing at all. For me and many other old-school anglers, your bait is EVERYTHING.

If I can’t get live baits, I prefer fresh minnows. I can rig these in a way that I can work them like a lure. It’s probably the best solution if you have no live baits.

Dead worms etc, are OK. They will catch trout – and good trout. However, it should be at the bottom of your list. Make an effort to get live baits for the best results.

My final option, which is still a pretty good one, is PowerBait. Add a little scent. It does work. 

I have no special color choice. I find yellow good for me – I can see it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Trout See Well at Night?

Trout have no special night vision. They rely on their later line to sense movement and changes in water pressure.

Do Trout Bite Late at Night?

Dusk and dawn are always best. But so long as you are working a bait, there is a chance a trout will take it, regardless of time.

Can You Catch Trout at Night with Power Bait?

Yes. Trout will take PowerBait at night – it can be a pretty good option when other baits aren’t available. Add a little extra scent for the best results.

What Lure Colors Attract Trout?

Lures that are dark in color are great for night fishing, especially topwater lures. They have a great silhouette that trout can’t resist.

On very bright nights, I’ll also try silvers and the like, as they will reflect moonlight which will attract fish.

To be honest, I don’t really care about lure colors when I fish at night. By and large, it’s a secondary consideration. It’s night – the fish can’t see the color, so why worry?

Can Trout See Lures at Night?

If there’s good moonlight, then trout can see your lure. On the darkest nights, trout will rely on their lateral lines – they feel or sense the lure.

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