The Sporting Life
by Dennis Doyle
The Narrows At Night
I haunt the Narrows when cold temperatures and hard weather have driven off everyone of any sense
Nighttime fishing at the Kent Narrows Bridges is a very different kind of Bay experience. The rush of water through the confines of this aptly named waterway is more reminiscent of a swift, powerful river than the gradual movements of the Chesapeake’s usually more gentle, tidal action.
Under the two bridges, vast and eerie shadows are cast down at night by the high-intensity lights adorning the massive structures. An older, two-lane overpass that handles local traffic is in operation, as well as a more modern, high-arching structure carrying the multiple spans of Routes 50 and 301. During the earlier hours of evening, howling, high-tempo vehicle noises resonate between water and steel and concrete.
Later at night though, as travelers become scarcer, the urgent hiss of a swift current, wet, popping sounds of feeding fish and the whistle of a damp wind through the dark, arching supports will be all that you hear. It can get a little spooky.
Swinging at anchor last week in my skiff just a long cast from the shadow lines, I was reacquainting myself with nighttime bridge drill as the heavy haulers roared above. Thunder from an 18-wheeler may not accompany memories of any of your better fishing experiences, but they do mine. I’ve hooked up with some awesome fish here in years past.
The mouth of the Chester River lies just to the north and the sprawling Eastern Bay to the south. Their vast waters take turns churning through this Kent Island waterway as the tide makes its inexorable change every six hours. The channel is about a mile long but probably not a quarter-mile across at its most constricted.
A unique area, the Narrows can be productive throughout the year for knowledgeable anglers, but it peaks during the month of November. Cold weather has flushed the baitfish out of the tributaries throughout the Bay, and with them the striped bass that depend on them for sustenance. A lot of both will pass through the Narrows as they move about in preparation for winter.
During the day, the larger fish are scarce. Heavy boat traffic, sunlight and the relatively shallow water of this channel (it is barely 15 feet deep in most areas) makes this a poor environment for them. But at night it all changes.
At Night, Predators Come Out
As the dark water surges through the confines of the channel, it brings with it a smorgasbord of nocturnal creatures that have emerged with the night. Baitfish, shrimp and other varieties of our teeming Bay life are borne along by its overwhelming current.
Striped bass, never predators to ignore opportunity, know the situation and move in, lurking in packs along the various shadow lines under the bridge. As creatures are carried by the flow from light areas into dark and vise versa, they become momentarily disoriented. Hungry rock of all sizes rush to take advantage, sometimes noisily.
In years past, deep into the evening, when colder temperatures and hard weather had driven everyone of any sense off the water, I have seen the width of the Narrows from shore to shore boiling with the white water of feeding stripers. It was an awesome sight. I suspect it may sometimes still occur in wee solitary hours, though I no longer haunt the bridge as late as I once did.
Crowds are becoming more common these days. It doesn’t take many boats to occupy the better places along the bridge shadow lines, and shore-bound anglers often pack the limited areas at the bridge bases. Despite the throngs, fishing can still be excellent. I always schedule a few trips on my late-season calendar.
On this night last week, the stripers came hard. Three hours of casting flies on a sinking line resulted in only six or seven fish, the largest of which was just over the legal limit. I released that one with the provision that he send back his bigger brother, but he never kept his part of the bargain. At least not while I was there.
I’ll return a time or two before the season is over. Maybe I’ll pick a night with a little rain or a temperature plunge, something uncomfortable to thin out the company. Or maybe I’ll just get lucky and there will be plenty of fish for everyone.
Note to Night Anglers: Rockfish may not be in your possession between the hours of midnight to 5am.
Fish Are Biting
Preparations for waterfowl season are occupying many sportsmen, but die-hard anglers are solving the winter-bite puzzle. Large rockfish have been gathering above the Bay Bridge on the Eastern Shore side to Love Point. They are deep, and chumming seems to be the way to earn their attention. Trollers bouncing the bottom along channel edges and the mouths of the tribs are being rewarded with nice fish. Deep jigging with Stingsilvers, Trout Bombs and similar lures is also producing along bridge supports and while drifting through schools located on fish finders. Breaking rockfish are still showing throughout the area, but most are small. Larger fish can sometimes be found underneath and down current.
Perch are remaining cooperative, but most other species have headed south for the winter. Be extra careful on the water this time of year, and stay warm.