The introduction of underwater dock light systems has opened the door for anxious anglers around the state willing to explore a variety of aquatic habitats. These fish-attracting honey holes present opportunity after opportunity for finding exciting light tackle action under the cover of darkness. And while the coming months still provide a few crisp evenings, as game fish transition from their winter haunts the bite should take off in the vicinity of these illuminated gold mines.
Providing staging points and ideal ambush territory while simultaneously altering the flow of current, docks and their associated support systems are always great places to target a variety of the state’s most sought after inshore game fish including snook, redfish, tarpon, trout, sheepshead and more. However, action during high noon can leave you wanting more due to boat traffic, fishing pressure and other factors. At night it’s a different story altogether. If you can find a dock with underwater lights, you’ve just increased your odds exponentially.
At night it’s a different story altogether. If you can find a dock with underwater lights, you’ve just increased your odds exponentially.
While submerged lights provide impressive illumination and aesthetic appeal, they more importantly attract a host of marine critters including tiny aquatic invertebrates and forage species like minnows, shrimp and crabs. Large baitfish also congregate around underwater lights and gather in concentrated baitballs as the witching hour approaches. Because of this, anglers approaching docks on foot, skiff or kayak should be well prepared to match the hatch.
The fact that game fish in this venue have a very finicky demeanor—often turning on and off like a light switch with brief periods of heavy feeding followed by long periods of tranquility—means only the subtlest presentation will achieve the desired results. Night fishing requires a silent and stealthy approach where it is often best to present your bait from the greatest distance and let your offering simply drift with the current or even tumble along the bottom until it reaches the kill zone.
With enough time spent observing prey-predator interactions taking place around dock lights you’ll notice that wary game fish patrolling the shadow lines and cruising through the orb of light are keen on selectively attacking their targets. This is no free for all, rather a calculated attack with the weak and wounded straying too far from the pack often the first to meet their demise. Furthermore, no matter your choice of approach it’s critical you eliminate unnecessary terminal tackle and scale down your leader to the lightest fluorocarbon possible. This is all in an effort to combat the one downside of underwater lights…they illuminate everything tenfold. Even the smallest swivel will twinkle like the North Star and send tarpon and snook scattering for cover in the surrounding darkness.
When approaching an underwater light remember that stealth is key, with trolling motors and shallow water anchoring devices highly recommended. Fishing underwater dock lights is really a combination of sight fishing and blind casting and requires patience and perseverance to achieve any level of consistent success. If approaching a light from a boat, stay as far away as you can and aim your first cast for the outer perimeter of the light. If the tactic doesn’t result in a strike, cast into the orb on the up current side and let your bait drift towards the outer rim of darkness. An additional approach entails skipping your offering deep under the dock’s support pilings.
In any case, work lures slowly and methodically while trying to mimic the movements of the prevalent natural prey. Be sure to work your baits all the way to the rod tip, because juvenile tarpon are notorious for jumping on a plug as it is about to exit the water.
SPRO > Mini Bucktail Jig
A condensed version of the already famous SPRO Prime, this tiny bucktail jig features a razor sharp Gamakatsu hook
and is often the best option when predators are keen on anchovies, silversides and glass minnows.
Weight: 1/16 oz.
Enrico Puglise > Perfect Minnow
The gentle presentation of a small fly is impossible to beat when targeting finicky fish hunting the shadow lines of submerged dock lights. Tied with a mix of flashabou and translucent EP fibers, the Perfect Minnow is deadly effective when small baits are present and best rigged with a loop knot and light fluorocarbon leader.
Hook Size: #2
D.O.A. > TerrorEyz
With a replaceable rubber body, the D.O.A. TerrorEyz features a hidden lead head design with convincing holographic eyes. When presenting a TerrorEyz it’s best to throw up current of the shadow line and bounce bottom with an occasional pause in your retrieve.
Weight: 1/8 oz.
MSRP: $4.96 (3-pack)
MirrOlure > MirrOdine Mini
The smallest offering in the MirrOlure series of lifelike sardine imitations, this suspending twitchbait weighs 3/16 oz. and has a maximum diving depth of 24 inches. With internal rattles and a reflective luminescent insert, this lure is best retrieved along the darker outskirts of shadow lines where the reflective body triggers ambush attacks from nearby predators.
Length: 2 1/4″
Rapala > X-Rap
Perfect for dock lights in the vicinity of deeper channels, the diving X-Rap features a unique wobble action that suspends and comes to a roll at rest. The lure is also outfitted with a translucent body, internal holographic foil and 3D holographic eyes.
Length: 3 1/8″
Pattern: Glass Ghost