WYNNE -- Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and time to pause if we wanted to make a day out of our bluefishing trip. The countdown was almost as fast as that for a missile launch.
That's the way it is when you're into blues now that the new creel limit of 10 fish per fisherman per day is in effect. I'm not knocking the cap mind you, it's just that from 10 fish down to none left to catch comes awfully fast when these voracious feeders are schooled like sardines.
A trip usually covers eight hours, nearly six of them actually fishing. So what do you do with all that extra time if the countdown is too fast?
Such was the dilemma faced by Eileen and Chuck McCrobie, Elaine and Johnny Marple and I as we fished aboard Capt. Bruce Scheible's 40-foot charterboat Ellen S out of Scheible's Fishing Center at Smith Creek in St. Mary's County. True, many who fish north of the mouth of the Potomac would like to face such a problem, but they will get their turn when the fish move north -- soon, hopefully.
As soon as we cleared Point Lookout, the fun started. Breaking blues, patches of them everywhere. Light trolling tackle was rigged, and baited with short surgical hoses weighted with several ounces of sinker followed by leaders of about a dozen feet.
The pattern was to skirt a surfacing school, this done, every rig would get a strike. I tried casting to them, but it was one of those infrequent hard-to-figure days when fish weren't nearly as interested in cast lures as those trolled.
The fish kept coming in to keep mate John Tinsley busy. As soon as a school went deep, Scheible spotted another one, and it was the same thing again -- and the countdown continued. Figuring creels of 10 for five fishermen, a mate and skipper, the overall maximum was 70 fish, which averaged 1 1/2 to 3 pounds.
"Some people don't mind stopping, but others who come a long way to fill the freezer do," griped Scheible. "We can't please everyone -- and I get hot when I see advertisements of Virginia bait houses that buy commercially caught blues to salt and cut up and sell for bait.
MA "Why just one of them will eat more blues today than we're al
lowed," added Scheible, as he gestured to a school of porpoises we saw dead ahead. We stopped trolling about 10 fish short of our overall maximum, and headed across the bay to chum where some blues up around 10 pounds roam, but only get several of about 3 pounds. Then it was to the Davidson Wreck, which was run aground for Navy target practice and the nearby completely submerged Hannibal.
There we trolled light rigs with no weight, and rigged with large yellow bucktails and red pork rind for sea trout. The key was to drop baits 80 feet back and present the lure just above the wreck.
Marple got a trout of about 4 pounds, less than half the size we had hoped for -- a few more spit out the hook, and unwanted blues took most lures before trout had a chance to get them.
After six trolling passes over the Hannibal we had our 70 blues, and little chance to get at the trout.
Fall rockfish quota up, new fishing reef down
The Department of Natural Resources has received permission from the Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission increase the overall quota for the fall rockfish season by 30 percent. Last year's quota was 750,000 pounds divided among commercial, charterboat and recreational fisheries; this year it will be 1,071,740 pounds. DNR is expected to announce seasons next week.
Elsewhere, the 100-foot steel freighter H.C. Jefferson was sun near the old submerged bow section of the African Queen 15 miles southeast of Ocean City yesterday to create a new artificial fishing reef for sea bass, and other bottom dwellers.
The vessel was donated by Moran Towing Co. of Philadelphia and its sinking was supervised by DNR's John Foster.