Nighttime fishermen have known for eons that light attracts fish. They may not have known why, but the fact was, where there was light shining into or around a body of water, there were fish. We now know that light attracts the plankton that baitfish feed upon. And where baitfish congregate, so do larger fish.

The earlier fishermen would use lanterns and dedicated old-timers still do, but new technology offers more advanced ways to lure fish into feeding at night with lights that are made specifically for the night fisherman. Fish lights on the market today can be affixed to docks or piers, have floating capabilities, or can be completely submersible. So what are the differences and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

Floating Fish Lights

One of the earlier dedicated light systems developed for nighttime fishing, floating fish lights are encased by a flotation ring, most commonly made of styrofoam. These lights are powered by a 12v system and can run off a battery or cigarette lighter. The best of these have safety fuses and insulated cords.

The drawback to floating lights is they are not stable and are subject to waves and water movement. The more stable the light, the better it is to draw fish to feed. Since it is above the waterline, a floating light can also have more of a tendency to attract insects at night. Although this may be great for the fish, it is usually not so great for the fisherman.

Submersible Fish Lights for Boats

Submersible fish lights are more stable as they are below the waterline and can be weighted down or affixed to the hull of the boat with suction cups. These are available in colors of the spectrum proven to attract fish to feed. They also have true 360° light coverage.

These use LED light which may not be quite as bright as HID lights, but new technology offers stronger and more compact versions which are very versatile in situations where there is no electrical capability.

Portable HID submersible lights are available for boats and offer the same high power that the dock fish light systems have. They are much brighter than LED systems. These lights still require a 110 outlet, so fishermen using these lights on their boat will need to use an inverter or generator to power the light.

Submersible Dock Light Systems

The dock light systems are the most permanent and stable of the fish light systems. These provide illuminated night fishing right from your dock. They run from a one-bulb system to a four-bulb system and require electrical capability. The most advanced ones offer self-cleaning options with anti-barnacle coatings, photocells for automatic turn-on and off, and varying cord lengths.

Regardless of the fish lights you choose, you will be impressed by the difference having illumination can make on your nightly catches. Dedicated fish lights have made many a night fisherman out of those who may never have fished at night before.

If you’re not a night fisherman, you may be missing out.

Night fishing exposes you to those night feeders that just don’t come out during the day. Many species are simply more active at night. There are numerous reasons, some of which are tides and moon phase. Water temperature is cooler, especially in summer months. Many fish tend to dive to deeper waters during the heat of the day. But for whatever reason, many fish are just far more active at night. Although fish don’t see well at night, many fish rely on movement and smell to locate food sources.

As a fisherman, it may be harder to maneuver at night, but that’s where the use of fish lights can be advantageous, not only for you, but also the fish. Fish can be triggered into a feeding frenzy once you introduce a light source, in particular, a submersible one.

Submersible fish lights directly project into the water and cause reflections. The light creates a feeding environment for plankton and baitfish. We used to think that light simply attracted more insects but we now know that it’s more about attracting the plankton and phytoplankton that baitfish feed on. And where you have an abundance of baitfish, your predators are close behind. The more baitfish that are attracted, the more of a “frenzy” is created, luring the larger fish to an area of feeding abundance. This works for both day and night feeders.

The wavelength spectrum of particular colors seem to work best. Just like the color green is easier on our eyes, green seems to work well with fish. Green and white fish lights tend to attract more freshwater fish with the color blue working well in saltwater.

HID fish lights are the most powerful when electrical capability is handy. When an electrical outlet isn’t available for HID lights, there are now new and more powerful LED lights that can be powered off a 12v outlet port or battery from your boat. The best submersible lights offer 360 degree coverage. This should be done from an anchored boat so you have a fixed position. The fish will be attracted to a submersible fish light the way they are naturally attracted to light sources on fixed structures like docks or piers. These lights can be weighted or fixed to the boat with suction cups. More is better. Try two or three lights at once for a larger throw of illumination.

Of course, it’s always important to make sure you choose a location where the fish are. If there are no fish, it makes no difference if the area is lighted or not. It’s still important to know your fishing spot. Too deep, too shallow, or not enough hiding spots for fish and your chances of catching fish will be limited. So check out your spot during the day first.

Go ahead. Become a night fisherman. You may decide you like it better than the daytime and find that your catch is far greater with the use of an underwater fish light.