Fishing at dawn on a weekday works for some people, chiefly those who can pry themselves out of bed and who don't have to go to work.
Fishing at dawn on a weekday works for some people, chiefly those who can pry themselves out of bed and who don’t have to go to work. But fishing at dusk and into the evening is a pastime with its own challenges, rewards and rhythms. Night fishers are a common sight at Green Lake in North Seattle, where sundown brings the trout, muskies, carp and catfish closer to shore, and the hubbub of city life fades away.
At the end of a long pier fronted by leaning willow trees, Hai Lieu flips on the little light clamped to his fishing bucket so he can see the worm he’s sliding on his hook before casting his line into the darkened, choppy water. Things like light — or the absence thereof — are big considerations for people who fish the lake as the sun goes down over Phinney Ridge and a blue-silver sheen overtakes the water’s surface.
“It’s different because in the day time, you can cast out a little bit, but at night, because you cannot see, you have to fish closer,” Lieu explains, taking a seat on a minuscule folding chair. “Some people use a glowing bobber, so you can still throw far.”
Suddenly, Lieu’s own orange-and-yellow bobber dips underwater, about 20 feet out. Lieu jerks up the rod and reel and the line tightens. “I got one,” he says quietly.
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It takes only a few seconds to reel in his catch, a trout weighing perhaps half a pound.
Lieu turns his light on again and shimmies the hook from the trout’s mouth as it flops around, skin slippery and metallic.
In Vietnam, where Lieu’s family is from, carp and catfish are commonly used in cooking. Green Lake holds both types of fish, but Lieu has a taste for trout.
“My mom cooks the fish,” Lieu clarifies. “I just eat!”
The electronics company worker from Shoreline says he usually wakes up to get ready for work at 5 a.m. and doesn’t get home until late afternoon, so fishing at night is a necessity, not a choice.
“Better than staying home and watching TV,” Lieu says with a giggle.
On another outing, Lieu waxes philosophical about his nocturnal pastime.
Dressed in a jacket and camouflage ball cap, he talks about the fish as if they were some wily secret society. “The fish like to run around,” he says, waving his arm. “They know everything. They see everything.”
They are plotting. He is plotting. It’s a cat-and-mouse game.
Tyrone Beason is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer.