Carp Fishing At Night: Tips, Tactics, Bait & Gear For After-Dark Success

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If you haven’t been night fishing for carp yet, it’s time to take the plunge. It’s an awesome experience and is a ton of fun, and it is one of the most prolific times to fish for carp, too, as they are very active at night. 

But any style of night fishing doesn’t come without its challenges, and it can be a little daunting the first time. You will need to adjust your tactics and pack different gear than the one you’d pack for some daytime carp fishing. 

So let us run through everything you need to know, from the required gear to all the practical strategies and the right bait choices. Once you have read this article, you should have all the info you need to be confident in going out for your first experience of catching carp at night. 

When Is The Best Time To Catch Carp At Night? 

Night fishing for carp is the most prolific between late spring and early autumn because of the water temperature. Carp are quite a greedy species that eat a lot, all day and all night, but when water temperatures drop, their feeding activity decreases. 

In winter, their feeding will occur during the warmest parts of the day and slow down as departures drop into the night. 

But, between late spring and early autumn, the water temperatures stay warm enough for carp to feed actively 24/7; on the hottest days, their feeding activity will increase at night, making it the best time to target them. 

During the warmer months, their natural food sources, like crustaceans, also become more active at night, making the carp more active. It’s common to see carp anglers camped by lakes in their bivvies for days, as they know their best chances of catching more fish are in the darkness. 

What Gear Is Needed For Carp Fishing At Night? 

Preparing for a night fishing trip is the key to success; before venturing out, read my article on the nine best tips to prepare for a night fishing trip to get a stress-free session.

You will want to tweak your carp fishing setup while going after carp at night. Fishing in the dark is significantly more challenging than fishing during the day; thus, you want to use gear that makes life easier. Here are the seven key items of gear that I recommend: 

A Good Headlamp

You can’t go fishing at night without a good headlamp, as it illuminates the area around you, helps you bait your hook, and lets you see the fish. A headlamp provides light and ensures your hands are free to do tasks like rigging baits and landing fish. 

The best headlamp choices for night fishing will have multiple modes, and you want a headlamp that has a red light mode. Red light doesn’t spook fish as much as it doesn’t remove your night vision either, so you can turn it on and off without going night-blind.  

If you are looking for a recommendation for one of the best headlamps for fishing, check out my full review of the Ridgemonkey VRH300 range.

Use Heavier Rods 

Catching carp on lighter rods is all well and good in the day, as you can see clearly what is happening. But things are different at night, and you want to control the fight, so using slightly heavier rods is the way to go. 

With a heavier rod (such as a 3lb test curve), you can put more pressure on the fish and manoeuvre them in the direction you want them to go, away from snags and hopefully into your landing net. 

Use Baitrunner Reels At Night For Carp 

Baitrunners have a dual drag system that lets you feed line to a carp that is biting, and when you want to hook up and engage the primary drag, you can do so at the push of a button. 

Dual drag makes life incredibly simple when trying to hook a fish at night, as instead of playing around with “free spool”, you have to press a button to hook your fish and start fighting it. 

If you are looking for an awesome baitrunner reel, check out my article on the best Shimano baitrunners, which explains all the details on why you should always opt for a quality baitrunner when carp fishing.

Rod Pods And Rod Holders Are A Must 

It would be a real problem if a carp were to drag your rod into the lake or river during the night while you are sleeping. 

When it is pitch black, you can’t keep an eye on your rods like you can in the day, and therefore, using a sturdy rod pod or set of bank sticks that hold your rod securely is an essential accessory. 

Rod pods can hold from two to four rods at once; pods make it simple to attach your bite alarms and align your rods facing the water in an organized fashion. 

Use Bite Alarms At Night 

The chances of staying awake for hours at night waiting for a bite are slim. Bite alarms make a noise when a carp picks up your bait and flash LEDs, hopefully waking you up in time to hook the fish. 

You can also buy bite alarm sets with a wireless receiver that clips onto your belt or keep it in your trouser pocket. 

I recommend these as they allow you to rest without worrying about missing a bite and let you walk around the fishery and cook some food while staying connected to any bites that might be happening on your rods. 

You’ll Need A Bigger Landing Net 

Take a big landing net when you go night fishing for carp. This isn’t because the carp you catch will likely be bigger than the ones you catch in the day; it is to make landing the fish easier. 

With a larger landing net, your chances of missing a netting opportunity reduce considerably at night. Landing a huge carp in the dark is difficult, and you want to make it as easy as possible. 

A Carp Cradle And Unhooking Mat Are Essential 

One of the most complex parts of night fishing for carp is unhooking and releasing a fish in the dark. A quality carp cradle and a sizeable unhooking mat make life much easier and much safer for the carp. 

The last thing anyone wants is for the fish to receive any damage before being released; therefore, having quality fish care equipment to remove the hook quickly and safely return the fish to the water is a must. 

Best Tactics For Catching Carp At Night 

Using the right approach for catching carp at night is key to your success, and below, we will run through the right strategy, baits, and rigs. 


The best way to fish for carp at night is through ledgering, which means fishing your baits on the bottom. 

Carp are primarily bottom feeders, which makes this approach so effective, and the only other option is to use a float, but that would be impossible to see and fish effectively in the darkness. 

Ledgering also has the bonus of slotting bite alarms into your rods, so you never miss a bite with the proper setup. Plus, bottom fishing for carp lets you use multiple rods at once, so you can fish with different bait options to see what works and generally increase your chances of a bite overall. 

Another advantage of using multiple rods is always having others out while re-checking a rod, baiting up, or playing a fish. 

How Many Rods Should I Fish At Night? 

If you are new to carp fishing at night, don’t use more than two rods. A lot can go wrong at night; you might trip over your rods, get tangles, and snag the bottom, and if this happens with three rods, it can be a nightmare, whereas two is more manageable.

Also, getting a double hook-up at night is something you want to avoid, although it goes against every fishy bone in my body to say it. Fighting and landing one fish in the dark is hard enough; managing two is incredibly tricky. 

Overall, two rods are much easier to manage when night fishing for carp, but as your confidence and experience grow, you can increase to three if your fishing license allows you to.

What Rigs Are Best For Carp At Night? 

The key to picking the proper bait rig for carp night is understanding the bottom type you are fishing and keeping it simple. 

Night fishing is about reducing the chances of something going wrong so you don’t have to deal with tangles and other issues in the dark; it takes so much longer! Here are some excellent rigs to use.

  • Hair Rig – for clean bottom structures that have your bait sitting on the bottom 
  • Pop-Up Rig – if you want your bait to sit off the bottom and look enticing around your pre-bait. 
  • Helicopter Rig – is perfect for weedy areas as it allows your weight to slip into the weeds while letting your bait sit on the weed so the carp can find it easily.

What Time Should I Start Night Fishing For Carp? 

Arriving at your fishing spot at least an hour before darkness is always a good idea. Preparing upfront allows you to set up all your gear, prebait, and have your rods cast out and fish just before dark. 

Doing all this in the dark is a real pain; avoiding it will make your night fishing experience much more enjoyable. 

Fishing Safety At Night 

Night fishing for carp is a passive long game; it gets rather cold at night. You will want to pack warm clothes for all weather and have a quality bivvy, sleeping bag, and lots of food and water. 

I recommended bringing a stove so you can make hot drinks and cook some basic food, plus always carry extra batteries for your headlamp so that you can always see when you need to. 

Go Night Fishing With A Buddie

Fishing at night is more fun when you pair up with another angler; if you are unfamiliar with night fishing, it’s great to go with a friend and enjoy the experience together. Sharing a 48-hour session can be safer and improve your skills and catch rate chances.

Best Bait For Night Carp Fishing

There is no special bait required for catching carp at night. The same baits you use in the daytime are equally effective through the night.

What Bait Should I Use When Carp Night Fishing? 

Getting a carp to find your bait at night is all about scent. They can see less at night and use their senses of smell over everything else to find food. 

One of the all-time favourites most carp anglers use is a boilie, fished as a single or double, with a crustacean or fish meal flavour. Krill and tuna are a straightforward scent for carp to pick up on from a distance, stimulating them as they look for protein during any time of the year. 

Fishmeal and crustaceans are very oily, too, and this oily texture spreads out well in the water and will attract a lot of carp to your baited area. It is best to expand and give a range of options beyond one flavour of bait; be sure to have 3 or 4 so you can mix things up and find what the carp want on a particular night. What works in one session may not work next time!

Do I Need To Prebait When Night Fishing For Carp? 

Yes, prebait is a must when night fishing for carp, and it is a good idea to do it up to a day in advance. If you can consistently feed your spot 24 hours before fishing, the fish won’t be far away when you start your night fishing session. 

The best prebaiting method is using a spomb or spod, which allows an easy and inexpensive way of putting out particles in the desired area. However, more experienced anglers often use a bait boat or a baiting pole system such as the Nash Bushwhacker, which provides a versatile, larger capacity, and more accurate way of putting your pre-bait and your baited rig exactly together at further distances.

Add some additional prebait when you arrive at your spot, before setting up, and then once you start fishing, stop your prebaiting. It is a good idea to top it up after catching a carp; as you know, carp will have eaten a fair portion already, and adding a little more every few hours is an excellent way to keep your swim alive. 

Lights Out 

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and now know everything you need to be confident about fishing at night for carp. 

Remember, making things as easy as possible is vital. Be ultra-prepared before dark, have a clean and easy setup, and have everything you need to be safe and warm while waiting for a bite. 

You can learn more about carp fishing in many of my other articles. Remember, fishing for carp requires using quality fishing gear, such as the best carp fishing line, and joining a suitable carp fishing syndicate to increase your chances of catching those specimens.

Steve Fitzjohn