Happy Fourth of July weekend, -- and if you are playing near the water, be extra careful.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association says more Americans die in boating accidents on this holiday than on any other day of the year. According to annual statistics, 90 percent of this weekend's fatalities will be drownings. Do be careful, I need all the readers I can get.
Summertime fishing is improving. Norfolk spot have invaded the Patuxent River. They are about 3 feet thick from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station Officer's Club all the way to Benedict.
Historically, the July 4th weekend marks the jumbo spot run in the Patuxent. This year, they were about five days early.
Spot, or Norfolk spot, can be caught on crab baits, but they really prefer bloodworms -- and at $4.25 to $4.50 a dozen, it is definitely high-priced bait. Spot will also bite on cut spot, as long as it is fresh, and night crawlers. But nothing beats fresh bloodworms.
Bloodworm availability early this week was spotty, but everyone planned to have plenty for the weekend. I would call first before I started running around. Warren's Bait Box in Glen Burnie (768-6977) and the Fishing Barrel in Pasadena (544-4867) are two good places to start.
The Lower Bay has an improved number of bluefish. They started last weekend down by old Buoy 54 and are inching north. The 1- to 3-pound blues are spending a lot of time feeding on the surface.
As one captain put it, the menu in the Lower Bay has improved -- not all are super abundant, but the fishing is improving.
In the Middle Bay, the big news is flounder. Capt. George Prenant (301-261-9075) had 39 and Capt Ed O'Brien (301-855-8076) had 38 keepers the other day. That's a lot of keepers for this time of year.
A keeper flounder in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake must be at least 13 inches. In the Potomac, the minimum size is 14 inches.
The Middle and Upper Middle Bay are also well-populated with spot. The Choptank River and Eastern Bay are the best bet for good catches.
Some big bluefish are mixed in with the big rock; you'll catch 15 to 20 rockfish for every blue, but they're feeding together.
One of the Deale captains said he was surprised the rockfish hadn't moved up the bay like they usually do each summer. I told him they can't, the Upper Bay is already full of rockfish.
Capt. Ed Darwin took a Department of Natural Resources and an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission official out earlier this week to show the bureaucrats just how many rockfish we had in the Upper Bay. They were back at the dock by 11 o'clock. Ed said they stopped counting rockfish around 130; they probably caught between 160 and 170 by jigging bucktails at four or five different locations.
White perch and spot are beginning to appear in the Upper Bay, but not necessarily in the normal locations. Many of the usual white perch haunts are loaded with rockfish. up to 17 pounds. If you were an 11-inch perch, would you come to a place loaded with 17-pound rockfish? Maybe once, but never again.
Norfolk spot and small hardhead are mixed with the perch. A few good-sized bluefish are mixed with the rockfish around Swan Point and the mouth of the Chester River. Good-to-excellent spot fishing is also available in the Chester.
On the interesting, but not necessarily good for fishing, side, one Solomon's captain said he saw 50 to 100 dolphin, probably bottle-nose, heading up the bay last weekend.
These mammals eat a lot of fish. Maybe they'll eat up enough rockfish to make room for some white perch.
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-registered charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.