Capt. Mark Middleton of the charter boat Bay Runner almost broke theMaryland striped bass or rockfish record for the second time.
It was a cold and rainy Saturday in May 1978 when he did it the first time. We were fishing near the Old Gas Buoy off Herring Bay. Middleton gave a call on the radio that he had just landed a fish that was too big for his scales. I suggested he take the fish in and get it weighed.
Pulling in all the lines and running to the dock can cost you better than an hour of fishing time, but if you have a record fish it isworth the sacrifice. Middleton headed back into Deale with his fish,which tipped the scales at 55 pounds, the state record.
Last Saturday word came up the bay through the captains' grapevine that a big fish had been caught. We don't always have point-to-point communications with other groups of captains up and down the bay due to distanceand the mix of CB and marine VHF channels used -- especially on weekends when the bay and airwaves are crowded.
Monday, while fishing off Deale, I learned that Middleton had bagged a 53-pounder Saturday.He called Monday evening to give the specifics.
The fish was caught by Ralph Young of Arlington, Va. Young has been fishing with Middleton for 12 years.
The fish was caught on a large red surgical eelfished on a deep wire line, 20 ounces of weight. The fish weighed 53pounds, 5/8 ounce, was 53 inches long and had a girth of 20 inches.The fish already had spawned; otherwise, biologists project, the fish would have weighed more than 60 pounds.
Middleton said that ninebig rockfish were checked in between Skippers Pier and Happy Harbor (Deale) over the weekend. Six were caught by charter boats, three on private boats.
The Department of Natural Resources says that 73 were checked in over the weekend, which is about what they had hoped for. Not too many to hurt the population and keep the critics of the trophy season happy, but enough to make it interesting for the fishermen.
Capt. Ed O'Brien of the Semper Fidelis II out of the Rod 'N Reel Dock in Chesapeake Beach had three keepers Monday. That's the most I know that have been caught on one trip.
Not all the anglers are taking their big fish. Capt. Ed Darwin had a big fish Monday that hisparty appreciated the thrill of landing and then released.
Down the bay, the captains at Scheibles have come up with a new twist. Theyare chumming, but instead of using a piece of cut bait on the hook to catch bluefish, they are using artificial lures and catching rockfish. They have been catching and releasing as many as 100 rockfish pertrip.
We cannot forget that tomorrow is the opening day of the largest bluefish tournament on the Chesapeake, the MSSA annual tournament. I imagine that over 1,000 boats will be chasing bluefish through out the bay.
I'm certain that hundreds, if not thousands, of my readers are saying, "Where are the bluefish?" And I answer, "Ha, ha, there aren't any." Well, not exactly.
The majority of the bluefish we have are rather large, 10-plus pounds or so. The problem is that there aren't as many of them as we would like. I only hear of a few being caught each day. The warm weather this week will help and so would a few more blues if we could entice them up from Virginia.
Iknow of a few bluefish being caught each day from Deale to Cove Point. The best catch I know of was three bluefish on the Ruby Ann earlier this week. I hear rumors of something happening down around HoopersIsland but have no details.
One area that has not been explored is the upper bay. Everyone is fishing for rockfish below the Bay Bridge, so no one, to my knowledge, is trolling big spoons around Man 'O War Shoals.
We often find big bluefish at the upper end of Belvidere Shoals, along Brewerton Channel or in the deep water off Swan Pointor the mouth of the Chester River in May. The big bluefish might have gone through here and are sitting up there waiting for your hook.
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.