TILGHMAN ISLAND -- Maybe big things come in small packages, but after a balmy spring day on the Chesapeake, I suggest that better things come in large packages. Like bluefish.
The same holds for rockfish -- even if one is obliged to release them until the special trophy season opens May 11. The bay has become alive.
The blues aren't thick yet, but they're whoppers. They're not the usual early racers, thin and long. They're legitimate whoppers.
Ask Chris Lenz, a senior at the Naval Academy, whose previous fishing had been restricted to dunking worms under a bobber back home in Akron, Ohio.
His was the first catch of the day -- the year for that matter -- aboard Capt. Buddy Harrison's Pleasure Merchant out of Chesapeake House. Before he turned it around, it peeled 50 yards off the long line fished only several feet below the surface.
The line was only 20-pound test, so there was no man-handling this fish. It ruled the fight -- all 14 minutes of it -- and Lenz won with not a split second to spare.
Just as mate John Vicchio dipped it in the large net, the line parted just above the soft plastic Stinger lure. The blue's sharp teeth cut through 80-pound test line!
It also cut the last 8 inches of the twister-like tail off the white bait as slick as a guillotine. But what blue of that size isn't worth a lure that sells for less than $2.50?
Local lure manufacturer Nick's Stix has a winner in this new offering targeted to big rockfish. Blues like it. We fished another of luminous flaked chartreuse, which another fish grabbed briefly.
Baltimorean Francis Connor fishing an 11/O Crippled Alewive whipped a rockfish that would have easily topped the 36-inch minimum for the species when the season opens. No time for measuring, this fish was promptly released.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski's turn was next, but there were no more tugs. There was other good news from one of our anglers, Paul Massicot, fisheries chief of the Department of Natural Resources.
Ben Florence, who heads tidewater hatcheries, had just informed Massicot that a tagged rock hatched in the Manning Hatchery, and released five years ago was caught in a DNR spawning net operation in the Patuxent. It was filled with roe, and ready to spawn.
"The cycle is complete," reported Florence, whose accomplishments in hybrids, stripers and freshwater trout are the talk along the coast.
The other boat in our party took a 14-pound blue on a Crippled Alewive fished by Mike Davis. Capt. Billy Bradshaw of the Halcyon said another fisherman lost a rockfish of nearly 50 pounds near the boat, and Dave Ayers and Dr. Ed Wenzlaff each caught and released stripers.
It was like that old song, No Mister In-Between. The fish hit close to the surface or close to the bottom, no in between. And that's the way it has been in much of the bay since the first blues arrived 11 days ago. Also, all blues are big -- none of less than 10 pounds.
Scheible's Fishing Center at Ridge reports boats taking one to six fish to the boat -- all of from 11 to 17 pounds -- off the mouth of the Potomac, and with rockfish mixed in. Both chumming and trolling score.
Baltimorean Frank Viscardi got a 16 1/2 -pounder in his private boat above the Target Ship between the Patuxent and Potomac trolling a topwater line and 21 Tony. Frank Cathcart checked in an 11-pounder at the Angler after he caught it off Poplar Island on a 9/0 Crippled Alewive -- and that's about the farthest north a blue has yet been reported.
Capt. Shaker Black of the Rod and Reel at Chesapeake Beach said most of the action out of there was from Parker's Creek to the Bed Springs -- also at the C&R Buoy where we fished. This could mean a wild and woolly ninth annual Pro-Am Tournament out of that port this weekend. Call 1-301-257-2735 for details.