Fishing underwater lights.

How to attract fish to your waterfront or boat dock

Nothing like sitting on your boat dock and lounging and relaxing at the end of a long work day. Better yet, it would be if you can fish and have fun with kids and friends all while catching some good food. It appeals to one of our most basic instincts, namely to go out and procure something to eat.

Waterfront homes have that advantage. You don’t have to go far to fish, but whether you have a pond or lake, or river, you can spend hours there waiting if your waterfront is not specially adapted to attract fish to your shoreline and boat dock area.

Most humans are intrigued by various gadgets and devices. Fishing provides ample scope for acquiring a vast array of equipment, tools and obscure items in order to be a more successful angler. Now, quite a few of these items are obviously essential in order to catch a fish. However, there is also a host of others which are in my opinion, designed to catch more anglers than fish! Think, fishing kayaks (now those are nice!).

A good starting point to understand what attracts fish is understanding the sensory organs fish use when they are actively looking for something to eat. The five major senses of fish seem to be: Vision, Smell, Pressure detection, Hearing, and Current detection.

Fish sensory organs and attracts fish


Like with humans, vision is very important for most fish species and their eyes are quite similar to mammals and birds albeit it with more spherical lenses. It appears that most species have colour vision with some even observing ultraviolet and polarized light. Therefore light does attract fish.

One has to remember that fish live in a different light environment compared to land-based species. Water absorbs light and the amount of light decreases rapidly the further you descend into the depths. There’s the belief that you use light coloured flies on sunny, cloudless days when a lot of sunlight penetrates the water and dark or somber colour flies on overcast or rainy days. The reason for this is that dark colours give a better silhouette and are easier to detect in low light conditions.

It has been known for a long time that a light attracts fish, shrimp and insects at night. But what is the best color for a light attractor? Based on the biology of visual receptors, the light should be blue or green. However, while blue or green light is desirable it is not essential. Even if the eyes of fish or members of its food chain have color receptors most sensitive to the blue or green, these same receptors have a broad but decreased sensitivity to other colors. So, if a fishing light source is intense enough, other light colors will also attract.


Although lacking visible ears hearing is a very important sensory system for most fish species and quite well-developed in some, for example carp. Under water the speed of sound is faster than in air and the ability to localize the source of sounds are greatly reduced underwater.

Fish feel movement, water pressure changes and vibrations through a system of lateral lines that run the length of their bodies. Depending on its size, a fish will react differently to the same sound. A small fish might flee, a large one might attack, and a really big one might completely ignore the sound.

Fish are frightened when startled but are also curious. If a fish senses a noise from a distance, a suspicious one might be tempted to take a closer look and even eat the bait. In some lakes, anglers constantly run a small gasoline outboard engine while live-bait fishing. They believe that the sound of the motor will call fish to the boat, and that once attracted, they can be easily enticed to strike.

Certain artificial crank baits have a type of rattler inside which makes an audible noise while being retrieved. Apparently this enhances the desirability of that specific lure due to the effect on the hearing ability of a fish.

Another sound-producing technique, and one gaining popularity is known as thumping. The vibrations produced by tapping a long-handled object on the bottom of the boat is thought to attract fish. Every boat has a paddle or other object that can be used to thump.

Check price for the Neptonics Fish Rattle Noise Maker for Spearfishing, Attracts Jacks, Wahoo, Grouper, Yellowtail, Cubera Snapper


Tasting is to fish what smelling is to land based animals. It is well known that salmon have a very strong sense of smell due to the fact that they can detect chemicals unique to the streams where they were born. This enables them to home in on those little creeks and streams on the final stretch of their epic journeys which start out in the vastness of the ocean.

Gasoline, oil, bug repellents and sun tan lotions rank at the top of the list of odors that turn fish off. Fried foods, especially chicken and potato chips, along with scents of peppers, onions and nicotine are also high on the bad list. The best scents vary, depending on the species you are targeting.

A fish’s nose is made up of two openings (nostrils) on the head. The sense of smell is very important to a fish, because it helps them find their food and warns them of danger. They sniff the water coming through their nostrils (also called nares) to detect chemicals in the water, which can help them avoid predators, locate mates, and also direct their migration. Some of these scents are pheromones, which are chemicals released by other animals that trigger some kind of response in the receiver. For example, an injured fish that has been bitten by a predator may give off a scent that triggers an “alarm” response in other fish of that species, prompting them to flee.

As bait you can use common old white bread. Next you can choose between ingredients such as dog pellets, fish pellets or any other type of protein based pet food. If you are trout or salmon fishing, baits scented with the smell of salmon eggs are a safe bet. Bass fishermen like to use spray attractants laced with the smell of shad, herring and earthworms, while cat fishermen prefer garlic and the smell of shrimp.

When fishing from jetties or harbour walls targeting marine species like mullet, sardines can be mashed into the bread and cast into the area you want to fish. Just make sure there are not too strong currents present otherwise your bait slick will be swept from your fishing area taking your target species with it!

Pressure Detection

All fish species possess a lateral line. The lateral line is a unique sensory system that allows fish to detect patterns of water flow over their bodies and waves of pressure from nearby objects. Sensory cells within the lateral line respond to changes in pressure and to changes in water flow to create a kind of sensory field around the fish, in much the same way that electric fishes detect electric fields.

This organ can detect vibrations as well as pressure changes in the immediate vicinity of its owner. In Darkness, Freshwater Fish Must Sense Changes to Survive.

Not only does it help a fish forming part of a school to maintain its relative position with regards to its near neighbours, it also helps in in orientation and procuring food. A prey species in distress or some smaller fish trying to exit in haste give off certain signals that alert predator species.

Creating the perfect environment to attract tons of fish

Use Fish Lights around your lake dock and shoreline area to attract fish

Fish lights are a fun, affordable and effective way to draw fish to your to your shoreline and dock area. Not only will the fish lights create a pleasant and beautiful area with the lighting at night but you will attract fish right up to the area you want. Using a fish light, you will attract the bait fish to your dock area and the game fish will soon follow.

The night lights at 17sth Fisheries in Fort Lauderdale are famous for attracting large trouts and other fish.
Night lights on the dock at 17sth Fisheries in Fort Lauderdale are famous for attracting large trouts and other fish.

When using fish lights, keep in mind that both green and white lights will attract the fish and you will find that there will be times when one color is more effective than the other.  If the bait fish aren’t gathering with the color you are using, you may want to switch it up.  Think of it much like you would when you change the colors of the lures you’re using if the fishing is slow, the color of the light you use is no different.

What is the Best Light Color to Attract Fish?

While fish lights seem to magically attract fish to your dock, it is actually a simple, scientific process. Any light under the water, no matter what the color, will attract fish. When lights are placed under the water, they reflect off particles in the water. These tiny little particles enhance a natural food source for bait fish. These bait fish are then attracted to the light. Once the bait fish are attracted, they bring in bigger game fish like snook, tarpon, and bass.

Some lights attract fish within minutes of installation, while others can take up to a few weeks. As time goes on, more fish will appear at the light. Most of them will be bigger than the ones that preceded them. These lights do more than just attract fish, they create a natural aquarium in your backyard! The best part about these lights is that they do not harm the fish or any other marine life. They enhance a natural food source for the animals as well as provide countless hours of entertainment for anyone that sees them.

Check price 12V LED Lure Bait Finder Night Fishing Finder Submersible Underwater Light with Battery Clip and Power Plug 6M Power Cord

Using aeration in your lake or pond to create a healthy environment for your fish

Aeration is a huge benefit not only for creating a healthy lake or pond environment but also for the well being of the fish in your body of water and for attracting them to your specific area.

Surface aerators on a pond help keep oxigen on the water.
Surface aerators on a pond help keep oxigen on the water.

There are different aeration products and uses depending on the amount of coverage that you need.  Surface aerator are perfect for increasing the oxygen levels along with promoting fish health and overall water quality by deterring algae growth, aquatic weeds and the build-up of muck. Products like the Air Stream Pro and the Surface Aerator work wonderful depending on your aeration needs.

Create a home for your fish using an old tree placed in your lake

Another interesting and unique way to attract fish to your dock area is to put spruce style trees out beyond your dock or shoreline.  Fish will use this as an area for protection and sanctuary and after placing one or two trees down below the surface you will soon notice fish taking advantage of this new found home.  So remember this next time you have that Christmas tree laying around and you’re wondering what to do with it.

Keep your beach shoreline free of muck, sludge and silt

Another recommendation for creating a thriving area for fish is to be proactive with your shoreline and dock area and keep it free of muck and debris. Debris can accumulate on the water’s surface year all year long, but especially in the fall when the autumn leaves are dropping.

This year’s falling leaves and needles are next summer’s sludge and muck. Muck at the bottom of your lake will use up valuable oxygen that supply life to the fish and other water organisms.

Max Francisco