There's something about fishing at night for steelhead. The eerie feeling that something or someone is watching you. Hearing the rustling of some unknown creature in the surrounding woods. The hairs on your neck stand up. You stand alone in the dark and you don't see anything. All you hear is the sound of moving water. Fishing in the dark isn't for everyone. It takes a special type of angler that loves the challenge of fishing during the night. The biggest appeal of night fishing is you won't have to worry about other anglers. When the crowds leave and the river becomes a quiet place. Once the sun set and darkness encroaches, steelhead will become active. I've done it several times on the Rocky and Conneaut. It will either be early in the morning or after the sun set in the fall or spring. I've learned from one guy, who we call the night stalker as he does a lot of fishing in the dark, even in the winter. Over the years, he's honed his craft and enjoys his time out when most of us are fixtures on the couch watching TV.
When comes to night fishing, you need some form of light. A head lamp isn't strong enough. The best lights are the universal beacons from Rod and Bobber. Nearly every Walmart carries them or you can buy them online. They come with a variety of holders for different types of floats. I prefer the holders that fit on the float as it's more stable and you don't need to cut the line. You simply slide it up the float until it's snug. I find either the 5g or 6.2g Raven FM floats to be the best for the set up I use. The light is one of those sticks that you crack and the fluid inside mixes and starts to glow. The stick is pretty bright as you can see from a far distance.
The hardest part of night fishing for steelhead is detecting the hit. When the water is clear, the light is strong enough that it can be seen underwater. If the take is light, you might think you've bottomed out and not set the hook. But most of the time, when the water is warmer, the hits will be fast and violent. What I've learned is watching the light for any odd movements and setting the hook regardless.
Most of the time when I'm night fishing, I'll be using sacs. But, another effective presentation is Berkley's power bait atomic glow tube jigs. The jigs are prerigged and come in packs of 3. I like the use the 1/16 ozs jigs. You can use a headlamp or the flashlight from your smartphone and shine it on the jig. Within a few seconds the jig starts to glow. This is very effective in the spring when shiners will come up the lower section of the rivers. There's times when I've caught a lot fish using them.
But before you head out make sure that you're allowed to do it. The Rocky River metroparks closes at 11:00 PM so if you're out on the river, don't be surprised that you a visit from the park ranger asking you to reel in and have a nice night. Other communities might have hours where you're not allowed to fish during late evening hours. Usually I don't like to fish in the dark in rural areas, because I've heard cases of people cars getting broken into, especially around the more popular spots. However, I really don't know anybody that pulls an all nighter when it comes to fishing at night. I'll usually fish for a couple hours once the sun sets and that's about it.
Night fishing can be thrilling and a challenge. So instead of sitting on the couch flicking through channels on what to watch, head down to the river and give it a try.