What Saltwater Fish Bite Best At Night?

Saltwater fishing is unlike freshwater fishing and has its own set of challenges. Many anglers claim that saltwater fishing is best at night, as much oceanic fish bite best at night, but it is still critical to target specific fish when saltwater fishing or risk catching nothing. This leads many anglers to wonder which saltwater fish bite best at night.

Saltwater fish that bite best at night are larger predatory fish that use senses other than sight to hunt baitfish and other prey items at night. This includes tarpon, bluefish, flatheads, snook, sea bass, sharks, grouper, snapper, drums, croakers, redfish, mahi-mahi, and even swordfish.

Night fishing in saltwater is especially challenging, but it is made easier when you know which fish you are likely to catch. Understanding which fish species are more likely to bite at night is a great advantage that allows anglers to target the right fish. Let’s identify the saltwater fish that are most likely to bite at night and how to find them.

What Saltwater Fish Bite Best At Night?

Saltwater fishing can be very difficult. There are a variety of fish to catch in saltwater, and without baiting for the right species, it is almost impossible to catch anything.

Saltwater fishing also has many forms and techniques. Fish can be caught in saltwater by casting in the surf, casting from piers and docks, or anglers can fish from boats out past the waves.

Every saltwater angler has their preferred fishing methods and techniques, but every angler who fishes the sea always wonders when the right time to catch fish is.

Saltwater fishing success varies depending on the time of day and night, the weather conditions, water temperature, water visibility, currents, air temperature, availability of food, the seasons, and the condition of the fish in the water.

However, all saltwater anglers know that some oceanic fish are far more likely to bite at night than during the day. There are several saltwater fish that bite best at night, and if anglers take the time to learn which fish to target at night, they are very likely to catch some excellent fish.

There are several fish that bite best at night, but the most prized saltwater fish targeted by anglers that bite at night include the following:

  • Redfish
  • Red Drum
  • Snook
  • Tarpon
  • Speckled Trout
  • Sharks
  • Grouper
  • Snapper
  • Sheepshead
  • Sea Bass
  • Flathead
  • Croakers
  • Tuna
  • Bluefish
  • Mahi-Mahi
  • Sailfish
  • Swordfish

This list includes fish that can be caught from the surf, from docks and piers, and from fishing boats beyond the waves.

All of these fish are predatory or bottom-feeding fish. Predatory fish and bottom feeders are far more likely to bite the bait and lures at night than during the day, especially those that have learned to hunt for food using senses other than sight.

For example, a favorite fish among saltwater night fishermen is the tarpon, which has relatively good vision but relies more on scent and vibrations to catch fish.

This means that saltwater fishermen that target tarpon use scented lures that cause a lot of vibration in the water or live bait with a pungent smell to attract and catch these fish successfully at night.

The night hours are when predatory and bottom-feeding fish are most active, especially just after dusk and just before dawn. These fish are most active during these hours because prey is easier to ambush, and the water conditions are typically conducive for hunting at night.

tarpon fish swimming at night

What Bait Works Best At Night For Saltwater Fish?

Night fishing in saltwater is especially challenging. The sea is dark and unpredictable at night, and the lack of light makes fishing treacherous in some instances.

Some saltwater fishermen prefer to fish in areas with lights at night, such as piers or docks, and others prefer to cast out where there is no light and catch fish in a more natural environment.

Regardless of where you fish and the species you want to catch, there are some key factors regarding fishing bait to consider when night fishing in saltwater that can help you catch fish more successfully.

The best bait to use while night fishing is bait that causes vibrations in the water, bait that releases a scent, bait that causes a disturbance on the surface of the water, and bait that has a distinctly dark color.

Live bait typically works best for fishing at night, as the fish most likely to bite at night in saltwater are predatory fish that prefer hunting baitfish.

Using a live baitfish will release scent into the water, create the ideal movement and vibrations in the water for the target fish to find the rig, and the target fish is very likely to be on the lookout for this specific type of bait.

It is best to use baitfish found in the same water you are fishing, as this is far more likely to cause a target fish to take the hook.

The next best bait for saltwater fishing at night, if you do not have access to live bait, is to use a dark-colored lure that causes life-like vibrations and movement in the water.

Spinners, spoons, crankbaits, poppers, buzz lures, and crawlers are ideal, especially if they are scented. These artificial baits are known to work very well for night fishing in saltwater and are likely to attract the attention of predatory fish.

Artificial commercial bait is another good option, but only when targeting fish such as the tarpon that relies primarily on scent to hunt at night, and the angler must use some good techniques to cause the bait to move and vibrate in the water.

bait minnows in a bucket

Techniques For Catching Saltwater Fish At Night

The fish that bite best at night, such as sharks, marlin, snook, tarpon, and sea bass, are usually predatory. This means that they are aggressive, but it also means that there are some techniques that work better for catching them than others, especially at night.

These fish have larger eyes than most other species, which does help them hunt, but they rely on much more than eyesight to catch prey items.

These predatory fish catch food at night by using senses that allow them to detect electrical impulses, vibrations, sounds, and scents in the water. It is critical that saltwater anglers use these factors to their advantage when fishing at night.

Some of the best techniques for catching saltwater fish at night is to use bottom fishing rigs such as the Carolina rig and floater rigs that keep fish either at the waterbed, a few feet above the water bed, or in the mid-water.

This is where predatory fish are most likely to be, and these depths are the best locations to target fish likely to bite at night.

Use live bait or artificial lures that are as life-like as possible, and fish according to the predatory instinct of the fish you are trying to catch.

Most anglers prefer fishing from docks and piers at night, as these locations have a higher success rate than fishing from boats.

Even very large fish, such as the largest flatheads and tarpons, can be caught near these structures, as they know that there is plenty of food to be found here.

Another good tactic for fishing in saltwater at night is to surfcast while the tide is coming in. The moving current forces tiny food closer to the beach, baitfish follow these food items, and game fish follow the baitfish in.

Surfcasting at night while the tide is coming in, especially if there is an onshore wind, is very successful when using the right baits.

man enjoying a evening fish from a pier


The fish that bite best at night are predatory fish looking for smaller fish and other prey items to eat. These fish are perfectly adapted for ambush hunting at night, which is why they are far more likely to take bait at night, as they typically eat most and are the most active at night.

Take your time to learn about the fish in the area you want to fish, target the fish you find with the right bait, and you should have no problem catching saltwater fish at night, regardless of your fishing method.


Tommy Bull
Latest posts by Tommy Bull (see all)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *