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Tennessee Musky Fishing Night Time Musky Fishing

Muskies After Dark: Night Time is the Right Time

As we get deeper into Summer a few factors compound and being influencing muskie fishing success. First and foremost, by August angling pressure has cumulatively culled out any muskies that where susceptible to basic presentations like bucktails and top waters.  Plainly put, its time to admit that the dumb ones have been caught and now fall into the category of fully educated muskies.

Secondly pleasure boating and water sports are at a peak creating a negative influence. While some anglers may question the influence that boat traffic has on muskies directly it is indisputable that boat traffic disrupts bait fish. This influence can vary depending on the magnitude of the boating traffic but water ways with a high level of recreational traffic tend to be problematic from a musky staging stand point. This coupled with the side effects of tougher boat control from constant waves from wake and ski boats can make fishing a less enjoyable or even a downright frustrating experience.

These reason and many more drive serious muskies anglers into to the shroud of darkness that is night fishing. While the basics of musky fishing in the dark are the same as the day time there are a few things that you will need adjust to be successful. With this in mind lets take a look a few  things to consider to get the most out of musky fishing long after the sunsets.

1.       Moon Phase

While the moon phase during the summer can be highly impactful during day light hours it can be of utter importance under the cover of dark. New and Full Moon periods during July and August have perennially been some of the best times to target truly giant muskies in the northern habitat range. While weather can affect muskie activity regardless of moon phase paying attention to majors and minors during the night is just as important as it is during daylight hours.  Formulate a game plan that ensures you are targeting your most important muskie areas and structures when the time is right. Just like day light areas moon event events at night can be used as a time to come back to missed or following muskies.


2.       Marking Locations

While our mapping units are wonderful during the day time, they can be blinding bug attractors after the sun has set. Even on their dimmest settings most fish finders emit a distracting glow on lakes that have little to no ambient light. To minimize the visual distraction and to quell the onslaught of mosquitoes I implement an old school trick with a new twist to define the edges and areas I intend to target.  


My night time musky game plan always consists of using old school marker buoys with the addition of a large glow stick to mark weed edges and structural elements that I am targeting after dark.  While glow sticks are generally reserved for European raves, they are also the perfect visual reference while night fishing. In general, I will use two or three different colors of glow sticks to mark a weed bed or reef after dark. Typical I will mark my starting point with a buoy adorned with a red glow stick and my end point with a green glow-stick buoy. Using a third color can be to a spot-on-spot location, a dominant weed point or any other special feature that needs extra angling attention.


I find that marking the areas I tend to fish with glow stick buoys is best done before complete darkness. However, if other boats are on the water I will simply mark way-point where I need to drop my buoys allowing for precision placement after dark. While using buoys in this manner may seem a bit too old school for some, I find that it provides more than enough spatial awareness for me to go dark on my fish finders.


3.       Proper Lure Selection

Proper lure selection for night time muskies will vary greatly depending on geographical location and seasonality but a couple elements should always be factored in. First, bigger is generally better after dark. Large blades and magnum sized presentations that give off maximum vibration and thump are prime considerations long after the sun has set. A simple rule of thumb the darker the night the bigger the bait. New moon and cloudy nights bigger lures are usually better. Clear full moon nights can at times gives muskies more than enough light to lock in on mid-sized lures like double eights and standard rubber presentations. So, keep in mind that not all dark is the same and take into consideration the degree of dark that you are dealing with.

Another huge factor to proper lure selection after dark is the speed needed to properly work a lure. Under most circumstances slower is better once the sun has set so lures that require a high rate of retrieval to work should be left in the tackle box as lures that have great action at slow speeds should be your first-round picks. Muskies that are feeding at night are shallow muskies. Focus your lure selection on presentations that run shallow. Large buoyant crank-baits, shallow variants of big rubber, moderately weight buck-tails etc.


4.       Figure Eight More


Night time muskies eat in the figure eight just as consistently as day time fish. If you are going completely dark always add extra time to your figure eight. Muskies do no like light so you will be figuring eighting without a headlamp or any other means to see a follow so adding more revolutions is a key to consistent success. Live imaging is an absolute game change for muskies after dark especially in the figure eight. But it should be noted that on highly pressured water that muskies are getting live scope shy and that your best course of action may be going completely dark after hours.


While any strike after dark can be jarring, there is nothing better than a night time figure eight eat that comes out of nowhere with zero warning.




5.       Preparation

At the risk of sounding like your mother or a nagging wife, Clean Your Boat!  Clutter and lures should be cleared from the deck as they are a recipe for disaster after dark. Nets can and will get stuck in lures causing unnecessary loss. Tripping, slipping and man overboard situations are easily avoidable by simply tidying up boats casting deck from any and all obstruction.

I highly recommend having your release tools ready and organized and your net free of any obstructions and ready to be used. The less you have to figure out when you have a fish on the better, think and plan ahead regarding what you will and might need.

Having a quality headlamp is a no brainer if you are going to be night fishing for muskies. Headlamps with simple on off switch are best as they can be turned on quickly when a muskie is hooked of you need to find something in the boat. I do like the addition of small LED lanterns on the boat when night fishing. Small adjustable LED lanterns are great if you need to provide just a tiny bit on ambient light on your boats deck without lighting up the night sky.



6.       Safety

The scariest incident I have faced thus far while musky fishing was nearly being ran over after dark. A guide client and myself were casting a weed bed when we heard a boat with no lights on quickly approaching. Before we could figure which way it was coming from a large boat zipped down our gunnel no more than six feet away. While luck was on our side that night, I have no further interest in playing with fate. I would note that yes, I had my navigation lights on but I can no attest to the sate that the driver of the other vessel was in. If you are targeting muskies at night always keep your navigation lights on, run slow and watch out for any and all other traffic. Having a readily available fog horn or large hand held light to ward off negligent boaters in the darkness is advised.


Night time is often the right time to target muskies, with a little preparation and forethought you can find big musky success after dark.


 Steven Paul

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