RIDGE -- Capt. Doug Scheible sits back at the helm of the Bay King II, smoking a cigarette and hoping the heat will break, or for at least a whisper of a breeze. Even in the pilothouse atop the 72-foot head boat, the day is steamy and it isn't yet 9 a.m.
Even so, two charter boats loaded with children from Washington are preparing to leave the docks. Capt. Bruce Scheible, with members of the Maryland Sport Fishing Advisory Commission aboard, is moving his boat through the channel that leads from Smith Creek into the Potomac River.
Beyond Smith Creek, the Potomac broadens to the southeast, where it meets the Chesapeake Bay.
Beyond the river mouth, past Point Lookout and east, lies the expansive Middle Grounds and Holland Bar; past Virmar Beach and Smith Point, lie the Cabbage Patch and the wrecks of the City of Annapolis and the S.S. Brazilia and the Targets.
On a busy day, other boats from Scheible's Fishing Center might be heading for any of those fishing grounds in search of blues, cobia, sea trout or stripers when in season. But the weather patterns have everyone's fishing out of kilter, and the Bay King II is headed toward the mouth of the Coan River on the Virginia shore of the Potomac.
"Today, we are going bottom fishing," says Doug Scheible, lighting another light menthol and sipping from a cold drink. "Spot mostly, but also some flounder and maybe sea trout -- took a 3-pounder yesterday.
"We'd like to do some chumming, but there isn't much sense to it, the way the weather has been."
May was the killer, of course, a month that was much colder than normal.
"By now we should have had bluefish everywhere, but all we have had is rockfish," Scheible says, pointing to a logbook open on the console. "We could chum, but all we would get is rock and we have bothered them enough already.
"Even with hook and release -- and we handle them with kid gloves -- you are bound to kill a few."
The logbook records many things, including a column noted for purchases of chum, baitfish such as menhaden that is ground into a soupy mixture and ladled over the side to attract fish. None has been purchased in nearly two weeks.
"There are some blues out there -- 1- to 2-pounders that you can pick up even blind trolling," Scheible says, pointing out two small schools of blues and Spanish mackerel that are feeding on top in mid-Potomac. "But until they stop chasing the baitfish on the surface, you can't hold them in a chum line."
Chumming is a specialty at Scheible's, a fine art of anchoring and ladling out a slick of oil and bits of flesh that will spread with wind and tide as far as a mile away to attract fish.
"A school of fish comes across the line and turns into it," Scheible explains. "They then will follow it right up to the boat and feed like they are crazy. Then, the fishing action can be non-stop."
As it was on Thursday, the fishing was good, with humpbacked '' jumbo spot and a few small flounder hitting well for the 17 anglers aboard the Bay King II.
The two charter boats with the kids from Washington also were doing well, as were perhaps a dozen other boats in the area. In some areas, the spot were five feet deep on the bottom around the lumps.
"Spot are fun for a while," said Paul Rutherford of College Park, who had brought his 6-year-old son Jesse down for a day of fishing. "But I want that monster bluefish."
Some of the other fishermen aboard also came down expecting to chum for blues, but most seemed happy enough to catch spot and fill their coolers.
"Given this weather, which is finally about what it should be," Scheible said, "I expect it won't be too long before we'll be chumming again."
James Norris, a marketing and finance student at Towson State who has been a mate at Scheible's for nine summers, said he has never seen a summer like this one.
"Chumming," Norris said. "That's what it's all about on the Bay King. The blues get in close to the boat and 50 or 60 anglers go crazy at once."
* Scheible operates a fleet of charter boats as well as the Bay King II and runs daily trips as well as package deals that include lodging, breakfast and lunch and offers kids' prices and senior citizen and military discounts. . . . If you are set on chumming, call ahead. Scheible's telephone number is (301) 872-5185.