Anglers and night owls get ready, Centennial Lake's fourth season of night fishing returns this month.
The event, which allows participants to fish in the 54-acre lake in Columbia from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for $5, is a unique chance to fish in the park after hours, said Dawn Thomas, who runs adventure and outdoor camps in the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.
Participants over 16-years-old must follow all Maryland Department of Natural Resources regulations, including having a valid freshwater fishing license, which is valid for one year and can be ordered online for $20.50.
Nite Bite Fishing attracts between 30 and 50 anglers for each of its events, Thomas said, which occur on eight dates from April through October.
The season's Nite Bite opener has been canceled due to a snowstorm expected on Saturday, but Thomas said it's been rescheduled for June 9.
Weather permitting, the next night fishing event will be April 27.
New this year, the department will offer a beginners fishing clinic to help new anglers learn fishing techniques, said Adventure and Outdoors Supervisor Matt Medicus.
Centennial Lake is home to six fish species, including trout, bass, catfish, bluegill, tiger muskies and crappies. The lake is also about to get a new batch of 1,550 trout delivered next week from the Albert Powell Hatchery in Hagerstown.
General night participants are welcome to take their catches home, but Thomas said clinic participants and participants in the season-long Nite Bite fishing tournament series, which awards the largest catch of the season with $200 in October, must catch and release.
The nighttime events are some of multiple programs and camps for fishermen and women in the county, including youth classes, parent and child joint classes and adult clinics. Thomas said the county has seen an increase in recent years in the number of adults and kids interested in fishing, which has become a component of many of the department's outdoor summer camps.
"You see more and more anglers out here each year. We have three fishing boats that we rent out, and we've seen an increase in rentals in the last three years as well," Thomas said. "You come out on a Saturday morning [or] in an evening before the sun's about to set and you'll see quite a few people."
Beyond being peaceful, night fishing has its own unique advantages in helping anglers catch more fish, according to Thomas and Medicus.
With fewer boats on the water and people walking along the edge of the lake, Medicus said fish are less distracted and jumpy and are more likely to swim to the top of the water or near its edge. The best time of year to night fish is in the heat of the summer, he said, when fish will come out of their sluggishness as temperatures cool.
"So many people and noise are out during the day that the fish are not hanging out close to the shore, and at night you don't have any of that," he said. " [There are] bugs that attract them, but you don't have the things that are going to scare them off."
Thomas said because of this peacefulness, it can also be easier to grab bigger catches.
"It's those quiet nights that fish can come out and not be bothered," she said. "You're able to land bigger fish that aren't normally out during the daytime. During the day fish hang out towards the bottom of lake and at night bigger fish can patrol the shorelines and search for more food."
There's also an element of surprise with night fishing she said, since angler's can't get a good glimpse at the size of the fish until it's caught.
"You catch a fish at night, you really can't see it until you get it right up to the shore or boat so it's that kind of excitement," she said.