Is it Illegal To Fish At Night? (USA & Canada)


Recently a friend asked me “Is it illegal to fish at night?”. I assume he misheard someone talking about this subject. So I want to quickly shed some light on the topic.

Is it illegal to fish at night? The act of fishing at night is not unlawful. However, your local fishing regulations could have restrictions on WHEN you can fish. Check with your local fishing regulations for any fishing night closures.

If you are caught fishing at night when there are restrictions, then you could get a hefty fine. This is why it is essential to know how to read your local fishing regulations.

If you are not sure how to find or read the fishing regulations, then don’t sweat, I got you covered. I have broken this down into three simple steps that you can use right now to find the correct fishing regulations and how to read them.

Step 1: How To Search For Fishing Regulations

To find anything on a government website is frustrating, and after spending my fair share of time trying to find the local fishing regulations, I thought there must be a better way.

GOOGLE! Enter your google search using the following format:

Google Search: [State/Province] Fishing Regulations [Current Year]

Note: Some regulations can have freshwater and saltwater fishing as separate regulations while others have them combined. Sometimes the cover page of the regulations can be misleading so make sure to read the table of contents before skipping over any document that you open.

Step 2: Know Your Fishing Information

Regulations can have fishing night closures based on the fish species or the location. Therefore, knowing how to identify different fish species and the name of the rivers, lakes, or understand where you are in the ocean when fishing; is essential to know how to read the local regulations.

Commonly, a single body of water, such as a river, can be divided into sections with each its own set of restrictions.

For example, north of the street that crosses over a river will allow nighttime fishing, but south of that same street will have a fishing night closure. This is why it is vital to know the different restrictions in the area you plan to fish in.

Don’t know the name of the body of water, but know the general area in which you are fishing in? Then use google maps to find the names of the rivers and lakes.

Pro Tip: If you are unsure about what kinds of fish are around the area or even the name of a river or lake, then look up the nearest fishing charter companies or fishing supply store and give them a call.

Step 3: Look Up The Regulations

Now it’s time to look up if there are any night time fishing restrictions in the regulations.

For this example, let’s stay. I am in Washington state, and I want to fish for Trout and Salmon in the Humptulips River.

Now that I know my information, I can proceed with looking up the fishing regulations using the google search formula outlined in Step 1.

Once the fishing regulation is open, start with searching for the Humptulips River.

Tip: In the majority of cases, you can speed up your search by pressing the Ctrl+F keys on your keyboard to bring up the Find Function. Just type in Humptulips River for this example and hit enter.

Below is a snapshot for that river.

Washington Fishing Regulation For Night Closure Example
Washington State Fishing Regulations For Humptulips River

The regulations state that for Humptulips River, there is a night closure for all species between August 16 to November 30. Every year the fishing regulations get reviewed, thus potentially changing the restrictions. So make it a habit to review the rules every year even though it does not seem to change. It can save you from getting a hefty fine.

Night closure means no fishing at night. But what time is considered to be night time?

Well, every regulation, I have seen so far, defines this what time night closures begin and ends. The Washington State fishing regulations defines night closure as:

Definition of Night Closure: All Fishing activities are closed from one hour after the official sunset to one hour before the official sunrise.

Double-check all terms with the regulation’s glossary as definitions can change between different local regulations.

The next question you might have is, how do I find out what time is the official sunset or sunrise?

The hard way is to look up the information on the government’s website. Unfortunately, I don’t have a google search format for you on this one. Depending on your location, sometimes it’s easy to find, but most times its a bit of pain.

Now for the easy way! I came across this fantastic website which pulls the official sunset and sunrise times from different sources and puts it in an easy to read format. Check out www.timeanddate.com, a free and easy to use way to check for the official sunset and sunrise times.

3 Tips For Fishing at Night

Fishing at night can bring its unique issues that can be easily overlooked. Knowing what to prepare when fishing at night can be a separate article itself. But I don’t want you to go empty-handed, so here are three critical tips to keep in mind.

Pack A Light Tackle

Being able to maneuver in the dark while carrying your equipment is so important to avoid tripping over something. Pack only the essentials for your tackle! Below is a list of what I considered to be an essential fishing tackle:

  • One (1) Pocket Knife: A small and compact pocket knife has an endless amount of applications. I never go anywhere without a good knife. Make sure to get a knife that does not have an exposed blade.
  • One (1) Needle Nose Plier: Anglers would have two to three different types of pliers. However, you just need the needle-nose pliers. These pliers are the most versatile tool and should be included in any tackle.
  • A handful of sinkers: Packing too many fishing weights can add on extra weight quickly. By selecting the appropriate rig can minimize the number of sinkers you can lose. Thus the fewer weights you need to carry with you.
  • Swivels and Hooks: Pack extra swivels and hooks in small seal-able bags. This keeps your tackle organized and if your tackle gets accidentally knock over the bags will prevent you from cleaning up swivels and hooks all over the ground.
  • Pre-made Leaders: Prepare a handful of leaders before you head out on your trip. Pre-made leaders will save you time with rigging up your rod in the dark and not have to fumble around in the dark to make leaders on the spot.
  • Lamp: Pack a headlamp with some extra batteries. A headlamp will provide consistent lighting where ever you go with both hands being free while handling your rod.

Wildlife Awareness Tip: Beware of the wildlife around your area and prepare appropriately. Contact a local Parks Office to find out what wildlife is present and how to prepare yourself. Pack some bear bangers which can produce a loud noise to scare off wildlife, works pretty well.

Know Your Surroundings

Fishing at night, whether it is on a boat or onshore can be very productive and safe. However, you should have a plan in case of an emergency. To respond to any emergency, you first need to be familiar with your surroundings.

Upon arrival to your fishing area, take a moment to explore around. Get familiar with the area and take mental notes where things are located. Come up with a plan in case of an emergency and where to go. If you are fishing on land, beware of wildlife in the area and where they can pop out from. Remember to keep your bear bangers within reach and easy access.

If you are on a boat, then make sure you remove any unnecessary items. Items can quickly shift on a boat. It is essential to move about slowly and make sure you have artificial lighting from a lamp.

Be Prepared For Emergencies

A small emergency kit or first aid kit is always required. Being able to treat wounds if you get injured or call for help if needed.

Risk of injury can occur at any time, but you don’t want to be caught without any way to treat wounds if you are out at night.

Such wounds can be accidentally hooking your hand if the fish jumps around as you try to grab it or lose your footing and fall into the water or rocks. I have heard many stories of these sorts of things happening.

If you are on a boat, then always wear a lifejacket, its the law! Losing your footing and falling overboard on a boat is very common. Between items moving around on a boat, tripping over things on the floor, and losing balance from the waves can all result in you falling overboard.

If you ever run out of gasoline or your battery dies. Make sure to keep a high powered flashlight on board to signal passing boats for help. If you can hear or see a boat in the distance, use an air horn or a flare to signal for help. Keep some oars on board so that you can paddle back to shore. If you hear or see another boat’s navigational lights, you can use an air horn or a flare to get their attention and signal for help.

Related Questions

Is fishing at night good?

Fishing can be good at any time of day, but fishing at night can be very productive. The reason for this can be due to less traffic on the waters, disturbing the fish, cooler waters, and the moon’s effect on the tides and currents.

Is it good to go fishing on a full moon?

According to different studies, a full moon (visually in the night sky) seems to have little effect on fishing, but instead, it is the lunar phase that affects the water tides and currents that is more of a contributing factor.

Can fish see lures at night?

A fish can see objects such as lures at night, but how they see it is very different than humans. Depending on how deep a fish lives, a lure’s colour is less of a factor. Deeper the water, the more likely the lure’s colour will be black, creating a silhouetted figure against the night sky.

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