NIGHT TIME CAN BE THE BEST TIME :
THE NIGHT SHIFT FOR FORKS
by Daniel Kiazyk
Every summer as things heat up, many cat men leave the river because channel cats don't seem to be on the chew as they had throughout the Spring and early summer. Moreover the heat almost makes fishing throughout the day unbearable. Not fishing through the "dog-days" is certainly an option, but cats are still on the prowl. However if an angler changes the time - to night - when he/she angles, success while cattin' during this period can be measurably improved.
John had called and said that the cats weren't going as well as was the case the week prior. Our planned trip was not going to be overly productive according to all reports. Temperatures had moved into the sizzlin' range and he wasn't looking forward to baking out in an aluminum boat like some roast we often eat for Sunday dinner. I had been cattin' for sometime that summer and I knew what the solution to this malaise was going to be; take to the night.
Personally, I find cattin' at night to be a unique experience. You have a definite impairment of not being able to see too much. However, on the other hand, other senses seem to become that much more acute. Feel is paramount for fishing and at night things are not different; visualizing (through your sense of touch) a cat picking up your bait and driving home your hook is a rewarding experience. The visual component, however, need not be abandoned. A black light and a reel spooled up with one of the newer fluorescent lines can give an angler back the "visual" component to fishing. Fishing rods need not be held, but can be left in holders to be watched if such line and light are used. Another advantage to using this technique is when it comes to netting and untangling fish from the line/net. I have on occasion found the release to be a bit difficult because big cats can be ornery once put in the bottom of a boat. The blacklit boat bottom helps enormously when untangling hook, line and sinker from a net.
John wasn't too sure about heading out that night as he said he was bad enough of a clutz during daylight hours that a night sortie might prove to be a nightmare. I assured my good friend that he wouldn't have much to worry about and would probably catch as many fish as we normally see on one of our day sorties. Being able to back up my reassurances was something I could do given my apprenticeship of doing the night-shift with numerous guests over a period of years.
My first pre-occupation before going out cattin' with John was to my put my boat in good order. Knowing where "stuff" is before the boat goes into the dark is of importance. Tackle, nets, PFD's, spotlight, de-hooking tools all need to be easily accessed. A small flashlight for every angler in the boat is a great idea as it helps to find all those items previously mentioned. I'll use a spotlight on most occasions when netting and unhooking a fish. Finally, de-barbed hooks are also a good idea while night fishing because they are that much easier to remove from a fish's mouth.
As for fishing itself, if I get hung up, I'm usually not as determined to get my rig back from the river. A good leather glove and a tug will usually solve the latter problem. My rationale at this point is not without cause. Moving too "often" at night only increases your chances for trouble. And the latter even points out a more important point about being out at night: Knowing the water you'll be fishing is of utmost importance. If you know where hazards and snags are located, you have an ability to avoid them! Moreover, knowing the water well will allow you to fish (and maybe catch fish) the best spots avoiding a lot of travel at the same time.
The other significant part to the night fishing game is a bit disconcerting for anyone not used to traveling on the water at night. John's comment after traveling 5 or 6 miles on the river at night was, "How'd you see where you were going?" You could have run into a tree and sunk this tin can. A possible hazard… yes, but there are steps that can be taken to increase personal safety while traveling in the dark. My strategy for travel at night is based on common sense. Firstly, wearing a PFD is obligatory. If something should happen while traveling you wouldn't have the time to find and put on a PFD (just wear it!) Secondly, I'll use my navigation lights and if conditions warrant, I'll use a spot light to augment my vision. Bugs also seem to be out on the river at this time of the year so I find a pair of clear safety glasses very helpful (keeping your mouth shut helps as well!) Finally, traveling slowly (not nearly as fast as I do in day light) in the channel and avoiding slack water areas are strategies that have helped me navigate with fewer problems. I am also cognizant that after heavy rains the river tends to carry more trash. If I want to avoid even more "bumps" in the night" during this high water period, I'll slow down even more.
Having proposed the preceding will not make you invulnerable to difficulties. This year alone (due primarily to high water) I have wrecked three props. So, it is inevitable that you'll have a "bump" or two while traveling but at least your travel will be safer if you use common sense when traveling at night. You'll also have the odd tangle and you'll probably lose more rigs but that's part of the challenge to fishing at night! Can you do it in such a manner that all goes well without a hitch?
Our night cattin' session went as planned and John caught numerous sumo piggies. It's always amazing how cat's like to go on the chew once the lights go down. I've often mused at how cats are like humans when we sneak into the fridge for an late evening snack only to have someone turn on the light, "Hey what are you doing in there?". Cats caught at this time of night almost look guilty with their big tummies and beady eyes…. Hey! they seem to be saying.. what are you doing out on the river this time of night!