Kevin Whitley paddles slowly in the ebbing tide until he reaches a set of pilings holding up Route 13 on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. He cast his jig towards the outside piling, letting it sink to the bottom, and started working it up and down with the rod tip. Two, three, four rips and BAM – the rod bent over and the drag started to scream.

It’s the moment Whitley – known around these parts as Kayak Kevin because he spends a good amount of time in one – loves so much. “That thump,” the 51-year-old Norfolk resident said.

For the next few minutes, Whitley and his kayak become the drag as the fish pulls him around – sometimes a mile or more. The long-haired lover of yoga has had plenty of those moments in this early portion of fall. Big red drum remain scattered throughout the lower bay and along the beaches, and are making it no secret they are ready to participate in some fishing fun. Whitley has caught and released dozens of big reds between 40 and 50-plus inches while perched on his kayak.

He says 2021 has fast become a banner year for what he calls his favorite fish. And he’s waded through just about all of our spring, summer, and fall species to come to that determination.

But for the last few years, he’s taken up a new sport in his kayak – one that has provided a freshwater species he’s growing more and more fond of.

Whitley, who works as a crane operator at a local marina, is turning out to be a pretty good white-water kayaker. The Rappahannock and Appomattox are his two favorite rivers because they offer great opportunities for both fishing and white-water action. Unfortunately, those two newfound loves are edging him towards liking the spring more than the fall.

“The water in the rivers is up higher, flowing faster, and is more of a challenge.” So if it’s blowing too hard in the bay, he heads to the rivers. When the rivers reach a classification more than he’s comfortable, he hits the bay.

During the summer, he takes camping tours throughout the bay and sometimes heads south.

Whitley wanted to add that, while there are still lots of reds in the bay and ocean, pier and surf action is on fire as of late from Virginia through the Outer Banks.

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