Wire-line fishing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

November 6, 2021

Since I have been fishing from a very early age, I have many fishing stories, but none compare to the ones from my time in Virginia Beach. I moved there to be the first executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Virginia. Shortly thereafter, I met the Three Amigos – Kenny Sexton, Kenny Taylor and Jimmy Kolb. These three gentlemen, and I use the word gentlemen very loosely, fished together all the time. They normally went on Kenny Taylor’s boat, a 24-foot Sea Craft.

I was invited to go on one of their trips to wire-line the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel for rockfish. This is a very difficult technique where the angler and the captain must be in perfect sync to keep the quarter-ounce bucktail with the 4/0-hook dancing just above the rocks that cover the tunnels without getting the 12- to 16-ounce sinker permanently lodged in those same rocks. 

I met the Three Amigos at the dock and the first thing I noticed was Kenny’s boat had no seats. He explained that his was a fishing boat, not a comfort cruiser.

On the way to Lynnhaven Inlet, we saw what looked like a big rat trying to swim across the creek. Turns out it was a squirrel. Sexton grabbed Kenny’s net and scooped up the poor thing. At that point, the squirrel ran along the net handle, causing Sexton to release the squirrel and the net, then run to the other side of the boat. His two companions began to question his manhood and several other things that are not fit to print.

While this was going on, I was able to get the net out of the water and get the squirrel back, but once the animal was in the net, I twisted it around a few times so it couldn’t get out.

The captain ran us over to a bulkhead and I released the poor, soaked critter. After that, the ride to the bridge-tunnel was quiet.

Once on site, the Three Amigos broke out their gear and began fishing. The technique started at the island end of the tunnel and we worked our way toward the middle of the channel. The first rule was Kenny Taylor had to have his line in first, then the other two could drop in their lines.

All were fishing identical rigs. The rods were custom made, and the reels were levelwind and filled with 60-pound braided wire and 50-pound braided backing. At the terminal end of the wire was a ball-bearing snap swivel tied to the wire with a figure eight knot. From the snap was a three-way connector. A 30-foot leader of 30- or 40-pound Ande monofilament was tied to the quarter-ounce bucktail. The third eye of the swivel carried the 12- to 16-ounce sinker on three to four feet of 20-pound mono.

As a guest, I watched as the Amigos caught one rockfish after another. Actually, two of the Amigos were catching rockfish, while the third, Kenny Sexton, was either hanging up, missing strikes or catching tiny bluefish.

This performance did not go unnoticed by his companions. They began to get on his case pretty much where they had left off after the squirrel incident. Now, I spent four years in the Navy and 10 years in the construction business, so I have heard some pretty rough language, but Taylor and Kolb unleashed a string of insults on Sexton unlike anything I had ever heard, and they were his friends!

I will say when it came to catching fish, those boys had it down pat. They had perfected their technique during the heyday of trout fishing when they could load the boat with fish and then head in to sell their catch. They also preformed the same way with flounder along the bridge pilings.

The CCA ran a flounder tournament, and Kenny and Jimmy took my boys, Ric and Roger, out just to show them how to wire-line the pilings. My sons would pick up two flounder every time they passed this one piling, and another boat with a man and woman noticed their success. This guy tried to cut in front of Kenny, so Kenny told Roger to get up on the bow and push the other guy back under the bridge. That’s exactly what Rog did, and that was the end of that.

They ended up with their four-man limit that they were more than happy to deposit at my feet. I believe they won at least one of the prizes.

Time is not kind to all of us. Kenny Taylor succumbed to cancer caused by Agent Orange. That was the end of the Three Amigos. Kenny Sexton is running a charter boat out of Oregon Inlet, and Jimmy Kolb has married a very nice lady and is living the good life.

CORRECTION: Last week I said I used a Remington Model 12 shotgun. I should have said it was a Winchester Model 12.


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter