What do you do when the fish aren’t biting in the daytime? Try the lakes and rivers at night?
That’s the advice of some die-hard anglers from Wyoming County.
The R.D. Bailey Lake is buzzing with fishermen after the sun goes down. The lake is particularly active at night.
And there are sizable fish at the impoundment near Justice—catfish, walleye, hybrid striped bass and carp.
One of the popular techniques at R.D. Bailey is to go out in a boat at night and anchor on a long point and fish with soft-shell crawfish and chicken livers.
That’s what anglers use to catch huge hybrids and channel catfish, according to Mark Scott, fisheries biologist with the DNR in Beckley.
How can I describe the R.D. Bailey Lake for those who are not familiar with the impoundment? Picture it this way: it’s Summersville Lake in miniature.
The R.D. Bailey facility offers several sheer rocky cliffs that drop into water that is well over 100 feet deep.
A word of caution, though, for those who are enamored with nighttime fishing on lakes and streams: it’s a good idea to leave the alcoholic beverages at home. If you’re under the influence while operating a boat at night, you can easily run into the bank.
Alcohol impairs a person’s ability to make quick decisions, especially where depth-perception is concerned.
Another thing: always wear life preservers anywhere near the water at night. If you fall in, even if you have buddies nearby, you could easily drift out of sight and perish.
Keep your tackle simple while night fishing. Keep it organized where you can lay your hands on it. It’s easy to put your hand in the wrong place and find a hook waiting for you.
If you’re not holding your rod in your hand, you might want to anchor it with a rock or tie it down. Make sure the drag is set loose, for it only takes a second for a big fish to take your tackle to deep water.
Other lakes in the area that offer some excellent night fishing opportunities include Stephens Lake near Beckley, Bluestone Lake at Hinton, Plum Orchard Lake near Pax, and James P. Bailey Lake in Mercer County.
“Any lake that has catfish in it should be good for night fishing,” Scott said. “Trotlines are popular at Bluestone Lake.”
A variety of popular baits for nocturnal angling include minnows, Ivory soap, chicken livers, worms, and soft shells.
Many local anglers agree that fishing this time of year might be difficult, but it isn’t impossible.
If daytime fishing is your only choice, plan your trips for the early morning or late evening hours. This is especially true if you plan to fish at a shallow lake location.
Just about every species of fish tends to get more active and feed more readily in the early morning or late evening hours.
If you’re after smallmouth bass, river fishing could be the ticket right now.
Casting your lures near the heads or tailraces of pools is a good way to produce a strike. The oxygen content is better, and the fast water is a conveyor of food for the waiting fish.
Some of the best fly-fishing action of the year is experienced in August, I’m told, although I rarely can try it.
And while many bass fishermen might not think of smallmouths taking small flies, it is a proven summer tactic on the rivers.
As for night fishing, there is more to it than just picking a lake and shoving off. Choosing the right lake could make the difference between having a fair night and a night to remember.
There are several things to consider before selecting a lake for night fishing. Believe it or not, some anglers only want to night fish where lake traffic is heavy during the day. Go figure.
One of the most important considerations is not to venture out alone. Whether you are using a boat or wading a river, using the buddy system is a smart thing to do.
The second thing to consider, if you are fishing from a boat, is to keep the deck clean and free of debris such as rods, buckets, cameras, tape players, coolers, and oars.
Even if you don’t fall and break something, the items likely will just get in the way and possibly be kicked overboard.
And if a lure gets hung up in a tree (and it’s bound to happen), go in and pull the branch down to unhook the plug. If the lure is too high to reach, cut the line while slack and forget it until the next time you’re on the lake in the daytime.
A lure stuck in a tree limb that is tugged on can become a high-speed projectile when it dislodges and shoots free. It’s dangerous enough in daylight, let alone in darkness.
Oh, and when on a lake that permits gas engines, keep the speed down. A floating dock that breaks free could be a launch ramp at night if you are zipping along at 40 knots.
Take my word for it (as one who suffers from night blindness anyhow), they are hard enough to see even at slow speeds at night.
If you are not a good swimmer (I couldn’t float in a pool of JELL-O), or if you are not in particularly good shape, wearing a life vest makes a lot of sense at night. Falling overboard with clothes on can be hard enough on a good swimmer in great shape.
The best thing to do if you fall overboard is to grab the side of the boat and let your partner take the boat into the shallows where you can stand up.
Try to keep track of your partner’s location. Depth-perception is not as good at night and your chances of hooking him or her are greatly increased.
I know, this all sounds difficult and hardly worth the worry, but once you get used to it, you might want to take up night fishing in other months, not just the hot ones.
Just think: the experience of hearing a large fish take a surface lure when it’s so quiet that you could hear a pin drop; now that makes for some exciting fun.
When a big fish waits until the lure is next to your boat before making a strike, it’ll make your heart knock at your ribcage.
Top o’ the morning!