by George Poveromo

Turn on the night-fishing action with hull-mounted lights.



LIGHT SHOW: You never know what will turn up in hull lights offshore.
Photo: Courtesy of Aqua Lights

Captain greg bogdan is an accomplished South Florida guide who travels to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast each year to chase tuna. Bogdan often chunks at night, fishing three rods off one side of the boat with two free-lined baits on the other side—a standard setup for some. But Bogdan has some things figured out, like turning on the bite with the flick of a switch. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but he makes his chunking ultra-effective by using hull-mounted underwater lights.

Lights directed at the water have helped anglers call up all manner of forage, and the fish that feed on it, from the depths for ages. The new generation of underwater lights, whether pointed down into the water column or shot horizontally just beneath the surface, helps amass bait and increase action with gamefish.

Mount Up
Marine underwater transom lights are halogen, xenon, metal halide or LED bulbs encased in through-hull-mounted bronze or aluminum housings. Some are placed in the underside of the hull beneath the transom, where they shoot their beams straight down—not unlike the invisible beam of a fishfinder transducer. These lights draw bait and pelagics up from the depths. Other lights are mounted in the transom, aimed directly astern and illuminating a swath of water parallel to the surface. These lights can attract attention to a nighttime trolling spread and illuminate the water below more softly. Many boats are equipped with both kinds of hull lights.

The penetration of light depends on the clarity of the water, the power of the light and its orientation.

A 50-watt xenon model should shoot 50 to 70 feet astern, and a bit deeper than that when aimed straight down.

Technology has brought a variety of advanced marine underwater illumination tools to the market, with one for every need and budget.

Bogdan recently outfitted a new 43-foot Shearline boat with hull-mounted xenon transom lights. They direct much more light through the water than spreader-light setups and draw in loads more bait. He often watches tuna feed in the glow, devouring chunks and free-lined baits. If fish lurk just out of light range, he free-lines baits back a hundred feet or more to reach them.

Xenon lights are among the best at withstanding the rigors of offshore fishing. Models from Aqua Lights last for 5,000 to 6,000 hours, draw just a few amps and sell for $675.

Similar to xenon, metal halide bulbs are larger and require 110 volts. These bulbs last around 3,000 hours. An entry-level metal halide light is a 175-watt bulb that yields 27,000 lumens and sells for around $1,800. Aqua Light's most powerful light is the Metal Halide Mega Blaster at 600 watts and 180,000 lumens, which sells for $3,740.

Halogen is a good entry-level light, with a 50-watt bulb producing 900 lumens and selling for $300. Aqua Lights manager Ken Barnett says that the filaments inside halogen lights make them more susceptible to vibration and pounding and therefore limit their life expectancy to 600 to 800 hours. Halogen draws more amps than xenon and metal halide, possibly causing an undue drain on batteries. Installation costs for a basic, four-light setup could be around $600, based on a $100-per-hour shop rate, though labor charges vary depending on the complexity of the job.

The Bright Side
I am outfitting my Mako 284 with four 50-watt xenon lights from Aqua Lights, placing two in the bottom and two in the transom, pointing aft, with the banks on separate switches.

In addition to rallying live bait, the lights will let me experiment. I want to try surface techniques, such as pre-dawn trolling, by placing the bait spread in the swath of light—except the center 'rigger bait, a noisy chugger-type lure or lure-and-ballyhoo combo 200 feet back in the dark. The downward-pointing lights will step up my reef-fishing action at night.

Some anglers dangle portable lights overboard when fishing inshore at night for seatrout, but lights mounted in the hull will be easier to manage. I don't see why these lights won't tilt the odds my way with inshore fish too. They will certainly brighten my prospects offshore.

The Shining
Lighten up your fishing boat.

Aqua Lights; (866) 924-2782; www.aqualights.org