June 20, 2012
Brighten your waterfront night life with these fish attractors.
By Jerry McBride
Originally published in the January 2008 print edition.
Lights fire up nocturnal food chain—thousands of circling pilchards in this case.
Some years ago, Darrell Keith, founder of Hydro Glow Lights, told me a story. Seems animated nighttime air travelers flying between Miami and New York were dialing up Homeland Security authorities, reporting eerie, glowing green circles emanating from the black waters of the Florida Straits below--UFOs, obviously, emerging from their clandestine ocean bases. It made sense: When news leaked out about Nevada's Area 51, the extraterrestrials quietly transferred operations to the ocean floor off Miami—a logical move due to its proximity to South Beach.
Conspiracy theorists suffered a major setback, of course, when those green lights proved to be merely the work of swordfish seekers.
These days, one doesn't need to run offshore to catch a green light. “Snook lights” mark virtually every waterfront in South Florida, and dock owners have a growing selection of dock-mounted and submerged lights to choose from. Even if you don't fish, firing up that natural food chain under the dock is way more entertaining than any aquarium, and doesn't require daily maintenance. The fish feed themselves.
Responding to the inshore demand, Hydro Glow recently added the 110-volt powered DockMaster to its inventory. The saltwater-resistant aluminum reflector is designed to mount within inches of the water, directing the light into the water while shielding your eyes, which has the added benefit of keeping the bugs under the dock. The long green bulbs are sealed, and rated for up to 20,000 hours of life. Retail price for the reflector, light, mounting brackets and stainless hardware is $249.95. www.hydroglow.com.
Fishnlight.com offers underwater lights in two colors, the 175-watt Greenlite 175 and the 400-watt Sunlite 400. The big advantage on these models is that replacement bulbs are readily and cheaply ($3 to $18, according to the manufacturer) available at local stores, and can be replaced by the dock owner in minutes. Heavy-duty bulb protectors should minimize the need for replacement. Compact, brick-sized power units install in under 30 minutes. The Greenlite 175 with 50 feet of cord lists for $399, or light up both ends of your dock with a double unit (G2) for $749. The Sunlite 400 system is $499. www.fishnlight.com.
Aquatic Attractor Lights feature high-end, commercial-grade materials custom-designed to your needs and professionally installed by the manufacturer. Each 22-pound light is permanently installed on the seabed, and operates on a photoelectric cell to turn on at dusk and shut down at dawn. Wiring is encased in Schedule 40 PVC pipe to deny corrosive contact with seawater, and deters fishhooks or sharp oyster shells from slicing and dicing electrical components. High-intensity, white-light halide bulbs contain a buoyant gas to keep them upright at all times, while condensation within the fixture is prevented by pulling 10 pounds of vacuum at the factory. Plant and barnacle growth burns off each night. Bulb life expectancy, according to Aquatic Attractor, is four years. Retail price, including installation labor and all materials, is $1,195. www.seethefish.com.
An Internet expedition for dock lights will turn up lots of similar options. Other companies offering illumination include Green Monster Fishing Lights (www.thegreenmonsterfishinglight.com) with units ranging from $289 to $700, and Green Fishing Lights, $299 to $349. www.underwaterfishinglights.com.
Setting up permanent lights that illuminate your dock—or your buddy's—nightly will encourage bait and predators to show up on a regular schedule that you can almost set your watch by. You'll soon recognize, and probably name, individual fish. However, for those who plan to take only occasional advantage of the viewing and fishing opportunities docks afford, there are less expensive portable options. In addition to the above manufacturers, West Marine, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops and other marine supply outlets offer clip-on 12-volt underwater lights that do a credible job of attracting pilchards and the critters that eat them.