Very numerous are the devices seen in the tackle shops to capture fish at night, most of them being a sort of luminous paint on spoons or plugs. Successful or not, the fact remains that at certain times during the season we know almost all game-fish feed actively throughout the night as well as by day. This habit is primarily due to the fact that nearly all bottom creatures are bur-rowers in the sand or mud, coming out of their hiding-places only at night when the chance of being captured by larger fish is less sure than it is by daylight. Crawfish, lampers, and hellgram-mites are all nocturnal creatures, because the food they eat is more abundant during the night.
Hiding by day in the shallow sand or mud, they may be observed as soon as it is dusk moving slowly around, and at night-time the larger fish venture forth to roam about and hunt for food. In some parts of the shallows, one may see in the morning hours the sandy bed strewn with claws and remnants of crawfish giving unmistakable signs that game-fish have been feeding. Land insects and moths fly through the air in great numbers at night, and the same is true of aquatic insects, but only in warm weather. In the higher altitudes during May, and sometimes in early parts of June, the nights are cold, often frosty, which drives the insects to shelter only to resume flight when the warm sun appears. That old adage, "The early angler gets the fish," does not apply to fly-fishing in spring. All through the month of May insects do not begin their morning flight before 10 a. m. For that reason, if any night feeding goes on, it is upon bottom creepers and minnows. Because of the darkness we cannot of course say of a certainty that fish do feed throughout the night, as we are unable to see them, and the only clear proof that they do is an examination of those fish captured shortly after dawn to find undigested food, which I have often done at different parts of the season. Another proof, if necessary, is found in the successful results of the nocturnal angler. I will give a few incidents of the numberless in my experience.
On a hot day in July, accompanied by a well-known dry-fly expert, we fished diligently the morning and afternoon till nearly dark without getting a single fish. Crossing a brook at its junction with the river, we observed two youths, sons of our hotel host, busy in the water spearing mud minnows with a three-prong table fork. To our passing remark, "Going fishing?" they replied, "Sure." The following morning our hostess displayed two browns and a rainbow, three exceedingly nice fish, plump and well-rounded, fifteen inches long, caught on the fly the previous evening by her sons. These two youths, like all "natives," keep their eyes open as to the whereabouts of large fish; then after dark know exactly where to swim a live minnow right past the nose of these fish. We, being supposed by other angling guests to be experts, were completely outfished by innocent natives using primitive tackle and just a "common pole." Many of the so-called "prize fish," entered as caught on a fly (name given), are captured in this nefarious manner. One astute, wily country fisherman gave a dollar to a boy who picked up along the stream a dead brown trout of eight pounds' weight. This "gentleman' promptly secured two friends who witnessed and signed as to the weight, sent in measurements, caught on No. 12 coachman fly, and was awarded first prize of a tent and camp outfit for his skill as an angler.
Returning to the subject of this chapter, it is doubtful wisdom to cultivate or find means to make night fishing popular. Wading and fly-fishing is out of the question, and boat-fishing with a lantern is merely the capture of fish without a vestige of sport in the game. The only really successful results are attained at night by swimming a live or artificial minnow down a swift runway where you know trout abide, and the chances are all too favorable of getting the fish. Lake fishing for bass, pike, and wall-eye after dark, is practised in many places quite as much as day fishing, mostly on trolling method. Bait or plug casting when you cannot see is somewhat precarious, especially when line snags occur, which is more likely to happen than by day. Marine fishing is highly successful by night. All species of fish migrate at night; salmon, shad, and smelt ascend streams at night on their way to spawn. In the fall, trout lie around mouths of brooks till water is high, then start at night for the spawning beds, and when that duty is done return to the river in the same manner by night.
We know for certain that trout as well as bass leave their favorite haunt in deep pools to roam around by night in search of food, often to the shallows after minnows. Most often very large trout are seen late at dusk near the banks of the stream in six inches of water (more or less), where they capture young frogs, young muskrats, shiners, and other large-size food. On my tramp home along stream just before darkness sets in, I often meet boys, youths, and men on their way downstream carrying a lantern and bait-can to a favorite rock where they seat themselves till far into the night fishing for suckers or chub, always in the hope of getting on their coarse tackle some roaming trout or bass. They often do capture very large trout on a big hook, on which is impaled either one big or a bunch of small worms, which is sunk to the bottom and allowed to rest there till taken. They know such places are not fruitful by day, because of inactive feeding. Set lines placed at evening for river eels, baited with pieces of fish and worms, very often have trout among the catch when taken in the following morning. Finally, we may rightfully conclude that all fish do take food of some kind through the night as well as by day, if food is available, as we are sure it is. Night fishing, so far as results are concerned, is perfectly proper, and to my thinking quite excusable to those men limited to week-end vacations. If they do spend part of the night, say from dark to 2 a. m., they are bound to get some fish for their friends at home. Indeed, they are much more likely to succeed thus, than by fishing throughout the hot days in July and August. If they use artificial baits, success is more sure, because hooking live bait and keeping it in proper trim is most difficult after dark.