Evening Fishing Finish at the Severn River Bridge

I woke up at 5:30 am as my iPhone informed me it was the last Thursday in October before daylight savings kicked in, sunset was forecasted for 6:22pm.  Hmmm, I wonder if might be able to get out on the water after work? “We’ll have to see,” I thought to myself.

So I got up, worked out, showered, dressed and headed westbound on route 50 for a jammed day of business activities, appointments and meetings. The day went extraordinarily smoothly and I was able to finish my last meeting in DC by 4:25pm.  On the spur of the moment, I decided to make a take a shot at one of the last nights of afterwork ambient sunlight/sunset for the year.  So I jumped into the car, left the garage and drove due east from downtown Washington to Annapolis, praying — as I headed home — to not get stuck in a backup caused by an accident or road construction.  As luck and prayers would have it, I got home in an hour.

My wife, LisaMarie had already made plans to go out with her girlfriends for dinner, so I had an automatic ‘hall pass’ to go fishing.  She knew I was in a hurry as I flew through the door and being a great gal she made me a ‘grab and go’ dinner (love that girl) while I changed clothes from professional business guy to amateur fisherman.  From the time I left the house to the time the boat splashed off its lift was less than 15 minutes. I reached my intended fishing spot on the Severn River at the Route 50 bridge a little after 6pm.

Why was I so intent on making this fishing opportunity a ‘catching’ opportunity? Well, the weekend before as I was running the boat home from a full day excursion of jigging under diving birds at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and I noticed a large number of ‘echoes’ on my depth finder. Fish had been schooling close to many of the piers of the bridge.  I marked them on the plotter and was curious if they would still be hanging around there four days later. I also was wondering whether they were schoolies of small, yearling rockfish (under 12 inches) or more substantial ones (over 18 inches).

I had four rods loaded into my rod holders with four different lures (1/2 oz. Kastmaster, ¾ oz. green Cripple Herring, 5/8’s oz. Rappela Rattle trap and a big red and white Atom surface plug); not sure which were going to take the day.  The first dozen casts produced no hits on the surface with the big popping plug, nor jigging the Kastmaster (my go to lure) which was really surprising.  I had been working the surface and the depths down to 26 feet, could see fish on the finder but was unable to create a hook up.

Severn River by Route 50 bridge
Severn River by Route 50 bridge (Photo by Gary Oster)

Time to switch to rod #3 which had a lure my friend Bob, who also fishes out of Saltworks Creek, swears by — the blue and silver, double treble-rigged rattle trap. The sun had completely set. It was 6:55pm and the lights from the Route 50 bridge had cast a definitive dark shadow and light line on the water.

After the third cast with the rattletrap, I feel a tug and strong jerk.  As I start to reel, the line lightens and runs away from the boat. This is a nice hook up!  A few minutes later, I pull in a fat 17” rockfish which I release moments later.  Next cast. BAM! Another nice strike. However this fish is a little more feisty taking a run or two past the boat before it comes aboard for a measure (18 inches) and release.  Three casts later, again a great strike. This striper comes to the surface effortlessly. It is a beautiful rock which I can stretch it to the 20” minimum, but I decide to not take a chance and return it to the Severn.

What a great night of fishing.

I am not discouraged because I haven’t caught a ‘keeper,’ in fact I am having a blast since this is my first time fishing at night.  I say a prayer to the Lord, thanking Him for the amazing experience and then a few casts later I hook a serious contender on my five-foot ultra light rod. This fish makes repeated runs and spools off line every time it gets close to the surface.  I finally pull it up to the hull, reach into the water and lift him by his jaw. This is a heavy fish and the keeper for the night.  Measuring in at 21.5 inches. This one is going into the cooler!

Gary Oster & rockfish
Gary Oster selfie with his 21.5-inch rockfish (also called a striped bass) caught on the Severn River at night.

It is 7:20pm, time to head back to the dock. As I head upriver I reflect on the hectic workday, the always intense DC-to-Annapolis commute and the benefits of living near the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay, providing a sport fisherman like me with a wonderful, nighttime fishing finish.

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