Logging In
Invalid username or password.
Incorrect Login. Please try again.

not a member?

Signing up could earn you gear and it helps to keep offensive content off of our site.

November 09, 2011

Using Underwater Lights

New gear opens up the science of fishing lights

Ever-changing technology in the lighting field has resulted in a new generation of fish-attracting lights in both portable and in-hull versions.

Quality fishing lights do four distinct things: draw, illuminate, entertain and produce. With the first, the brightness permeating dark waters acts as visual chum. That is, the lights attract the food chain, from baitfish on up to predators, luring them with forage species and brightness. Lights also illuminate a large area, if not the entire space, around a boat. This provides a focal point, a shadow line (where the brightness fades to darkness — a prime ambush point for game fish), for anglers not only to fish or place baits along but also to monitor so they can find and quickly react to any large fish entering the lighted zone. The lights entertain because just about everything from baitfish to squid to juvenile game fish are likely to swim through the illuminated area. While waiting on the target fish, impatient anglers can keep busy jigging squid or baitfish or dip-netting tiny pelagics for quick study. And fishing lights help put more fish in the boat. Naturally, a good angler helps tremendously.

Fishing lights once again proved their worth during a recent overnighter in the Wilmington Canyon off Avalon, New Jersey, for mako sharks. In this instance, a portable green Hydro Glow light lured in squid, which we jigged up for live bait and used to tease the sharks into striking. And the illuminated swath of water made it easy for us to see and react to the sharks, which made baiting them easier. In addition to the makos, several blue sharks kept everyone on their toes beyond the midnight hour.

For in-hull fishing lights, LED technology now provides low-amperage and ultra-durable products that can withstand the pounding and abuse of rough seas. Unlike halogen and xenon/HID bulbs, LED lights do not throw off excessive heat and will not be damaged if accidentally left on when the boat is removed from the water. Surface-mount in-hull lights are becoming more in vogue compared to through-hull units, which require drilling a large hole in the vessel below the waterline to install fittings. By comparison, most surface-mount lights are affixed to the hull with screws and require just a single wire run through the hull.

Listed are just three providers of cutting-edge fishing lights. These companies — one with a popular portable unit and two with in-hull systems — are utilizing LED technology to achieve a brighter and larger “throw” of light with minimum battery drain. Here’s a peek at what they have to offer.

Long considered the leader in portable saltwater fishing lights, Hydro Glow (877-895-4569; made its name 13 years ago with a 4-foot fluorescent-green tube light complete with terminals that attach to a battery. Company president and angler Darrell Keith says the product was born out of necessity for a light that would not only stay underwater (instead of float) but also be efficient enough to operate all night without draining its battery. Hydro Glows meet both objectives and are precision-balanced so they submerge in an upright position to broadcast 360 degrees of light around a boat. Constructed for the rigors of a saltwater environment, their bulbs have a 20,000-hour life expectancy. These lights are used widely for not only swordfish, tuna and sharks but also inshore for fluke, flounder, redfish, seatrout, snook and tarpon, as well as baitfish. They retail for around $200.

In the LED category, Hydro Glow has 1-foot-long and 2-foot-long models with 162 LEDs and 324 LEDs, respectively. These featherweight lights have an 80,000-hour life expectancy. Like their predecessors, they are submersible and have weathered pressure changes down to 50 feet. They’re available in blue or green and sell for $95 and $169.99.

Due out this December is a 4-foot LED model designed exclusively for swordfish and tuna. It will contain over 600 lights and be the brightest and most durable portable light on the market, says Keith. The unit is an inch in diameter, with strips of LED lights mounted on three sides of the light for a full 360-degree throw. It’s touted as drawing only 2 amps and will come in green or blue violet. Expect it to sell for around $239.

A leading provider of innovative, bright high-quality LED marine lights for yachts and pleasure and fishing vessels, Lumishore (941-405-3302; now offers a line of surface-mount fishing lights in white, blue and green. Models SM20 (830 lumens), SM50 (1,210 lumens) and SM100 (2,310 lumens) have power comparable to a 50-, 75- and 150-watt xenon light, respectively, and a 50,000-hour life expectancy. At 12 volts, they’ll draw 1 amp, 1.5 amps and 3 amps, respectively, whereas at 24 volts they’ll draw half an amp, three-quarters amp and 1.5 amps.

Introduced this November, surface-mount model SM150-CCP (for Color Change Plus), which draws 5 amps at 12 volts and 2.5 amps at 24 volts and has power equivalent to a 150-watt xenon light, offers a range of colors: blue, white, cyan, green, magenta and red. It features three strobe speeds (as short as 30 seconds and as long as a couple of minutes) for any chosen color and three selectable output intensities in preset colors.

“The system is purchased as a set of two lights and a controller,” says Lumishore’s Keith Wansley. “The controller allows you to scroll through six standard colors, as well as activate the strobing. So if you wish, you can illuminate the water in six rotating colors or the ones of your choosing. Should more lights be desired, the original controller can handle up to 14 lights. We anticipate the new SM150-CCP to retail for around $3,000.”

Some of the hottest surface-mount fishing lights on the market are made by Shadow-Caster (727-474-2877; These high-intensity LED underwater lights are manufactured with 316 stainless-steel and polycarbonate housings and have a life expectancy of 40,000 hours. The three models, the SCM-4 (17-watt), SCM-6 (24-watt) and SCM-10V2 (42-watt), are available with a wireless controller with key fob to control dimming and strobing. The lights are priced at $479, $549 and $679, respectively.