The heat has really picked up this past week and it is downright miserable to be on the water. The heat is keeping many anglers off the lake, but anglers do have another option to avoid the hot daytime temperatures. That option is to fish at night. Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee offer decent night fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, hybrid/striped bass and catfish. Angling at night actually gets progressively better when the cooler temperatures of fall arrive.
Most angling success at night comes from fishing permanently placed lights that are attached to boat docks but the same or sometimes better success for some species can come from fishing under and around lights hung over the side of your boat. Nighttime fishing for crappie during the summer months at Lake Oconee can be excellent when anglers use minnows and jigs around standing underwater timber that is located close to channels and drop-offs.
The number of dock lights on Lake Sinclair has diminished greatly over the last 15 years but enough docks are still available to make for some good night fishing. Lake Oconee has never had a tremendous number of dock lights but the ones that are present offer good fishing. The better boat dock lights are those where the lights remain on 7-days a week and those that have brushpiles around the lights.
If a homeowner is gracious enough to leave his/her dock light on, anglers should respect the owner’s property. Stay away from the dock some distance and avoid throwing plugs onto the dock, into the lights and into boats that may be tied to the dock. More and more lights are being turned off due to anglers not respecting the landowner’s property.
One alternative to fishing dock lights at night is to drop lights over the side of the boat and fish straight down beneath the boat. Lights can be hung above the water or submerged under the water. Submersible lights are now available and those will cut down on the number of bugs and the glare from the lights.
The submersible LED lights are a great improvement over the older type lights like Coleman lanterns. The key to this type of fishing is to locate underwater brushpiles; fish under the bridges or in the case of Lake Oconee locate plots of underwater standing timber along creek or river channels.
In the late summer, I’ve found that underwater trees in the main lake are better than those underwater trees in coves which seem for some reason to be better during the fall. Jigs and minnows will take a good number of crappie and hybrid/striped bass from under and around the lights.
An assortment of lures like Carolina and Texas rigged plastics and crankbaits will take largemouth and hybrid/ striped bass from around the dock lights. The catfish will fall for about anything including live worms and cut bait and lights are not required.
Fishing over lights is a much more relaxing way to enjoy fishing on a summer night and a way to avoid the constant moving that takes place when fishing boat docks. The older I have gotten, the more I like the idea of anchoring out over a brushpile, kicking back with a glass of cold tea and waiting for a tug on my line.
The third option for largemouth bass is to fish points, humps, rip-rap and ledges with a dark jig, a large dark plastic worm on a Texas rig or noisy topwater bait. This technique requires anglers to fish slow and be patient. You might only get a couple of bites but those bites tend to come from large fish. Dark colors like solid black will attract more strikes.
If you like the idea of anchoring out in the main lake over brushpiles or standing timber on cool nights, a little precaution is necessary since you will often be where there is boat traffic. Always leave your boat running lights ON (it is illegal to do otherwise) so that other boaters can see you from all directions. Also keep a spotlight and horn handy just in case you need to warn another boat of your location.
Many pontoon boats are now equipped with LED lights that surround the entire boat and it’s hard to miss them on the water. Safety is paramount when fishing at night and is a big issue on area lakes. Several boating fatalities have occurred at night during recent years. At night always make sure your lights are working properly, don’t drink alcohol, wear your life preserver and slow down.
Do you want some pleasurable late summer angling that is generally free from heavy boat traffic and daytime hot temperatures? If your answer is yes, then fish Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee dock lights or hang lights over the side of your boat and drop a lively minnow under those lights. Either option at night will likely catch you some fish. Good fishing and see you next week.