“NIGHTTIME IS THE RIGHT TIME AT CEDAR CREEK”
The early fall night was as black as coal and stars were shining like diamonds as Cedar Creek Guide Jason Barber, our buddy Dubb Wallace, and I eased away from the dock at Big Chief Landing. As we rounded the first point, there were other lights shining just as brightly as those from the heavens. Just about every boat dock on the lake, and they are many, has at least one light illuminating the waters and they all attract baitfish as well as a smorgasbord of gamefish.
Regular readers of this spot will remember an article I wrote about catfishing at Cedar Creek with Barber a few weeks ago. During this trip, Jason invited me back to do some night fishing for hybrid stripers, white bass and the occasional largemouth landed around these docks during the evening hours. This past week, I took him up on the offer and learned some things about targeting ‘dock’ fish that might just help you put some fish in your boat! With the memory of the red hot catfishing still in my mind, and my stock of catfish fillets getting dangerously low, I decided to meet Jason well before daylight to sample the dock fishing for this article, then switch to plan B and load the ice chest with catfish for an upcoming fish fry. The trip unfolded right on schedule!
Fishing at night, especially CASTING at night requires a bit of practice and OJT. Lure presentation is very important when targeting the illuminated waters around boat docks. Ideally, you want to cast past the light into the shadows and work the lure back through the light where the baitfish are congregated or present baits in the shadows under the dock and drag them back into the light. Your position in the boat relative to the dock obviously dictates the cast you need to make. Game fish you are targeting stay out in the shadows, making quick forays into the lighted areas to feed on shad and small sunfish. It’s one thing to cast baits in the daylight when you can identify your target. Casting around a dark dock is quiet another, especially when you need your bait to go under or a least very close to the edge of the structure. During the beginning of our trip, several of my baits presentations were vertical; my lure landing on top of the dock and somehow, luckily, I managed to jiggle them loose by twitching the rod and they dropped into the water!
Jason believes in keeping on the move when dock fishing at night. “Don’t spend too much time fishing at one dock, unless, of course, you’re catching fish. We seldom pull more than two or three fish from the same dock. When the action slows or you don’t get bit, move on to the next likely looking spot.” he instructed. A past bass pro, Jason had no problem precisely dropping his baits into the little recesses and corners around the docks. “Rather than create a big splash when the lure hits the water, it’s best to keep the bait as low to the water as possible during the cast and slow it down with the reel’s spool just before it hits the water. We have to be stealthy to avoid spooking the fish.”
Rather than large, heavy plugs and crank baits, Jason prefers baits with a smaller profile such as soft plastic shad imitations rigged on a light jig head or small quarter-ounce Roadrunner type baits. Shad were so thick around the docks that we occasionally hooked one of the little baitfish as we retrieved our lures. I noted the little threadfin shad were exactly the side of the baits we were throwing, about 1.5 inches long.
Photo by Luke Clayton
Cedar Creek guide Jason Barber shows off the rewards of fishing ‘under the lights’ at Cedar Creek.
Our short, before daylight trip produced white bass and one hybrid striper that weighed about 6 pounds but Jason says the best bite is almost always in the earlier part of the evening, from dark until around 11 pm or midnight. “Shad begin to move in to the lights first and game fish are quick to follow. By sunup, they have had several hours to feed and are beginning to move back into deeper water. Our night trips begin just before dark and last until until around midnight. On good nights, though, he kidded, “We’ve stayed out a lot longer. It’s just hard to leave them biting!”
When the sun peeked over the horizon, we rigged our catfish rods with Danny Kings Catfish Punch Bait and proceeded to hammer the channel and blue catfish. Fishing around lighted boat docks is a very productive method of catching fish during the spring and fall. It will work on your home waters as well. Just make sure and don’t spend too much time fishing one dock. Do as Jason suggests and keep on the move!
TO BOOK A TRIP- Cedar Creek guide Jason Barber can be reached at 903- 887-7896, 903-603-2047 or online at www.kingscreekadventures.com.
SIDE BAR FOR NIGHT FISHING TIPS
KEEP THE BOAT A LONG CAST FROM THE LIGHTED DOCK TO AVOID SPOOKING FISH
MAKE CASTS PAST THE LIGHTED AREA, WHEN POSSIBLE AND WORK BAITS BACK THROUGH THE LIGHT
USE BAITS THAT ‘MATCH THE HATCH’ – SOFT PLASTIC SHAD IMMITATIONS ARE A GOOD BET THIS TIME OF YEAR
KEEP ON THE MOVE- WHEN THE ACTION SLOWS AT ONE LIGHTED DOCK, MOVE ON TO THE NEXT
HOLD THE ROD TIP HIGH AND TRY TO KEEP THE BAIT IN THE TOP TWO OR THREE FEET OF WATER
RETREIVE WITH A MEDIUM SPEED, KEEP A STEADY CRANK ON THE REEL HANDLE