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February 05, 2010

Fishing Lights for Surface and Deep

Bright ideas boost swordfishing and deep-dropping success...

Since ancient times, fishermen have used artificial lights during nocturnal expeditions to lure their quarry within range. Rebounding populations of broadbill (a notorious nighttime feeder) and a growing interest in deep-drop techniques have sparked new trends in fishing lights. Thankfully, modern anglers need not rely on flickering torches or whale-oil lanterns to illuminate the waters.

We can choose from two basic approaches: Use a rather large and diffuse lamp near the boat to attract baitfish and, in turn, predators such as swordfish, sharks and tuna; or attach a small light directly to the leader to make baits stand out in the darkness. Some night-stalking anglers employ both methods simultaneously.

Close to the Boat
Although totally submersible, Hydro Glow lights are designed to suspend vertically with just a few inches of the waterproof casing above the surface. The entire length of the fluorescent bulb - 24 or 48 inches, depending on the model - stays underwater, so its full brightness radiates beneath the waves rather than losing a significant percentage to reflection off the surface.

The HG48's longer bulb creates a larger source, pumping out more light than the HG24; however, both models prove adequate for offshore use, and many anglers base their choice on how much storage space they have aboard.

"For protection and durability, we encapsulate the bulb in schedule 40 clear PVC," says Hydro Glow president Darrell Keith. "The characteristic green color comes not from the casing, but from the chemical formula in our fluorescent bulbs."

Why green? "The illuminating effect of green light in water is far superior to that of other colors, which allows it to penetrate farther," Keith says. "Placing a light so it reflects off the hull's underside can add depth of coverage as well as brighten the entire area around the boat. This is extremely helpful when fighting large fish at night."

Ernie Oronoz, president of FishNLight, says he eats, breathes and sleeps underwater lighting. He designs products with practical functionality in mind. These compact units (the largest, Sword Magnet, measures 20 inches) contain common, user-replaceable fluorescent bulbs protected by a polycarbonate cover sealed with a neoprene gasket. Since the lights use white bulbs, the cover determines color. When purchasing, customers choose a color (blue, clear or green) and can buy extra covers if they want the option of changing colors.

Oronoz explains that FishNLights don't float: "They're internally weighted for easy submersion. Our lights would operate at depths to 300 feet, but to avoid cable-management problems, we don't make power cords longer than 100 feet."

Don't get locked into a big-boat mentality when considering applications for submersible lights. Models that operate on 12-volt batteries offer portability, and FishNLight even makes a light-mounting bracket to fit kayaks.

Keith and Oronoz recommend a freshwater rinse after each trip to keep lights free of salt buildup.

Going Deep
"No light, no bite" serves as the scintillating motto for night fishermen as well as anglers who probe extreme depths. Darkness rules far beneath the waves even when the sun shines, so daytime deep-droppers add a light - often at the main-line/leader attachment - to attract attention to baits.

While chemical light sticks such as Cyalumes work in a pinch, serious anglers avoid them because they're not reusable, the brightness fades over time and they rupture under the crushing weight of the depths. Modern materials bring us better options.

Casings made of high-impact plastics keep lights from caving in to deepwater pressures. Models like Kristal Fishing's LP14, Lindgren-Pitman's Electralume and SNL's Power Light consist of screw-apart halves that allow access for changing batteries; O-rings seal out seawater. Most of these two-piece lights turn on when the halves are tightened together. Some models, like the Electralumes, switch on when water pressure at depths greater than 20 feet compresses the contact points. Still others (Lindgren-Pitman Duralite Diamond, Promar Submersible Strobe) begin blinking as soon as they get wet.

The light source itself represents true technological wizardry. Light-emitting diodes (LED) prove perfect for this application because, compared to conventional incandescent bulbs, they're smaller and more energy-efficient. They also boast an impact resistance that withstands the inevitable bumps and bruises of any fishing trip, and they have a ridiculously long, useful life.

Think it's absurd that manufacturers claim LEDs can burn for 10,000 hours? How about 100,000? "In my office I have LEDs that have been continuously lit for eight years," says Eric Brooks, R&D man for Lindgren-Pitman. "The power supply plugs into the wall; they've never been turned off."

Eight years nonstop - that's 70,000-plus hours and counting.

LEDs have come a long way since they first appeared as red displays in electric alarm clocks. Anglers brighten baits with blue, green, purple, red or yellow lights that flash or burn continuously. Indecisive types can hedge their bets with multicolored lights - some shine two or three hues simultaneously and continuously, while others blink through a series of alternating colors.

Let personal preference guide your choice of color. Richard Stanczyk, owner of Bud N' Mary's Fishing Marina in Islamorada, Florida, has caught more than 400 swordfish, all with the help of Electralumes. "We've had success using all colors, both strobe and continuous," he says. "But my favorites are purple, green and blue. We also like the multicolor, flashing disco model."

Simple maintenance of deep-drop lights calls for a freshwater rinse and removing the battery if it will be a while between trips.

Try these bright ideas and you'll see they give a whole new meaning to the term "light tackle."

Bass Pro Shops
Springfield, Missouri

C&H Lures
Jacksonville, Florida

Holiday, Florida

Hydro Glow
Dawsonville, Georgia

Kristal Fishing
Miami, Florida

Pompano Beach, Florida

Gardena, California

Rite Angler
Fort Myers, Florida

Sebastian, Florida