The use of submersible or underwater lighting to catch fish in freshwater or saltwater is not a recently developed concept.  However, the idea of equipping one’s boat with underwater lighting is relatively new and due mostly to the recent advancements in LED lighting technology.  Underwater lighting attracts plankton which in turn attracts baitfish to feed on the microscopic creatures.  Eventually, the feeding baitfish attract the bigger predator fish where your bait-covered hook or lure are waiting for them.

The Evolvement of Underwater Lighting for Fishing

In the early years of night fishing with light, individuals would hang their lanterns over the sides of their boats.  The idea was that the light would attract insects (which it did and still does) and this would entice the fish to feed.  In fact, there are many individuals who still believe the theory of “fewer bugs means fewer fish.”  Unfortunately, today’s technology has done a great deal in the way of disproving that theory.  The underwater lighting leaves little if any light reflection on the surface of the water to attract insects.

So how do fishermen manage to catch so many fish when there aren’t any insects on the surface to feed on? The answer is simple.  Underwater light starts a natural feeding process by attracting plankton (see above).  Minnows, perch, shad, and other baitfish are attracted to the plankton and then the larger fish move in to feed.  When filming underwater, it’s not uncommon to see baitfish stack up near the lighting while predator fish are stacking up below them.

It’s all about being where the Fish are

While the right equipment and tackle such as baits and lures, fish locators, rods and reels, and underwater lights all play a role in increasing your chances bringing home a limit of fish, they are by no means magic.  This is especially true if you have set up in a spot with little or no fish in the area.  If you want to attract fish with underwater lighting, there has to be fish present.  For instance, if you’ve never caught any fish off of a dock sitting in a couple of feet of water, underwater lights won’t be the magical solution.

The best equipment and tackle will only increase your chances of catching anything provided you’re in an area that is holding fish.  Consequently, if the water doesn’t have enough structure, is too deep, or is too shallow, there is nothing short of a miracle that will help you catch anything.  This is true whether you’re fishing in a boat, on a dock, or even on the ice.  Remember one of the important rules about finding fish.  Fish will always relate to some form of structure and the temperature of the water.

Daytime fishing in fresh or saltwater can be an exhilarating experience, even if you don’t catch anything.  The same holds true for night fishing with one possible exception.  It offers a certain mystique that daytime fishing cannot parallel.  It goes without saying that as a night fishing aficionado, being able to see what you’re doing is essential.  In other words, you’ll need some type of lighting, but not just flashlights or lanterns so you can see what you’re doing.  You should also have something to attract the fish to you such as floating lights or more importantly, the underwater fish-light.

Why submersible or underwater fishing lights?

For many years prior to the development of underwater fishing lights, the most common form of lighting that fishermen used to attract fish was some type of above-the-surface or floating light.  However, there was one major disadvantage or downside to using these types of lights.  They not only attracted fish, they attracted swarms of annoying insects as well.  It was primarily for this reason that the submersible or underwater fish lighting was developed.

The underwater fish-light is placed beneath the surface of the water to light up the water below your boat or fishing dock.  There are several versions of submersible lights that are available including 12-volt, battery powered, fluorescent, and LED models with the most common colors of light being green and white.  Some models sink immediately when placed in the water while others are weighted internally.  Still others sink by using a weighted swivel cup at one end of the light.

Colors that attract Fish

Most submersible or underwater fishing lights are available in two colors – green and white.  However, the green underwater fish-light is consistently the most productive for the night fisherman.  Basically, it’s all about reproduction and the food chain.  To put this into perspective, the green light source attracts microscopic creatures known commonly as plankton (zooplankton is the technical name).  These creatures migrate towards the light in order to reproduce.

As the plankton gather to procreate in the light, it attracts smaller baitfish that feed on them.  In turn, while these swarms of baitfish are feeding on the plankton, it attracts the larger fish that you want to catch and make a meal out of.  You can credit that green light for getting the process rolling and helping you catch your limit.  Although you can use white light instead of the green, it is absorbed quicker and doesn’t penetrate as far.  Consequently, it’s less effective than the green underwater fish-light.

Whether you fish from a boat or on a dock, in freshwater or saltwater, you can almost be assured of having a successful night fishing experience and bring home your limit when using underwater fishing lights.

Just as individuals search for conditions that increase their chances of catching fish, fish search for specific areas where the food supply is plentiful.  Saltwater game fish seek out waters where there is an abundant supply of insects, shrimp, and smaller fish (a.k.a. baitfish).  It follows then that these insects, shrimp, and smaller fish are going to look for areas where their food supply is concentrated.  In most cases, the best way to get that chain of events started and catch fish is to use underwater lighting when you go fishing.

The Perfect Underwater Fishing Light

Scientific research has proven that the different members of the food supply chain mentioned above have eyes that are sensitive to specific colors, namely blue and green.  The perfect underwater fishing light would have these characteristics:

  • capable of being submerged in water
  • emits light that is similar to the area where the fish congregate
  • high intensity
  • powered by a portable source

The first attribute is the most desirable because of the amount of energy from boat or land-mounted lighting that gets lost when reflecting off the water’s surface.  Ironically, there is no commercial form of lighting that meets all four criteria.

Fishing around Underwater Lighting

While the use of underwater lighting when fishing is nothing new, thanks to technology, equipping ones boat with these types of lights is a relatively recent innovation.  These types of lighting attract plankton which attracts insects, shrimp, and smaller fish.  In turn, these smaller food chain members attract the larger predator fish that you want to catch.  Here are a few helpful tips on how to fish by using underwater lighting:

  • Attract more baitfish using colored lighting instead of white light. Blue lighting is often recommended in saltwater while green is the best color in freshwater.
  • If you’re fishing during the daytime in low-light or overcast conditions, a green LED strobe light is recommended.
  • On clear days, switch to a blue LED strobe light.

Remember, no matter what type of equipment, tackle, and underwater lighting you’ve got, the best fisherman is not going to catch fish that aren’t there.  In other words, you want to fish where the fish are.  For instance, one of the truisms about fishing is that you’ll most likely find nearly 100% of the fish in any lake congregating in only 10% of the water in that lake.

How many Lights are needed?

Two lights typically work best because if they are spread 3’ to 4’ apart you’ll have a wider light radius and can accommodate more fishermen.  Plus you’ll be able to fish in different depths of water.  Conversely, if it’s just you fishing in a smaller boat, one light will probably be enough.  Just keep in mind that you can experiment with two different colors when using two lights.