Don't count your fish until they're in the boat, but it appears a goodly number of small scrappy blues are moving up the Chesapeake to replace the larger ones. By the weekend, they could be between Chesapeake Beach and Tilghman Island, maybe even farther north.
Yesterday, some of these fish -- from the 1989 bumper yea hatch -- had reached the C&P; Buoy off Solomons. Scheible's Fishing Center at Ridge reports they average a couple pounds and are in massive schools off the mouth of the Potomac. But they are difficult to attract to chum lines because they are constantly on the move.
Not all the giant blues are gone. Yesterday a charterboat skippe talked on the marine band of just taking a 13-pounder near Love Point.
If trolling for small snappers, mix in a few large spoons an bucktails for any remaining large blues in the 12- to 16-pound class, or better still, for large rock. The trophy rock season winds down Monday -- and add Thomas Point and the Kent Island shore to the list of the latest hot spots.
Thus far, the count of rock of 36 inches or better checked i baywide hovers around 100. So much for those who claimed the season would be a slaughter. Also, hardly a dead rock has been spotted on the surface to refute warnings that many released fish would be killed by the stress of the fight.
Back to blues: Offshore from Ocean City, large ones are foun out by the First Lump and the Jackspot. An occasional snapper moves into the back bays and the surf, but things are slow inshore except for an occasional flounder. Assateague's surf run is due to break open, but when?
* Saturday/Sunday: Mountain Club of Maryland backpacking trip in St. Mary's Wilderness Area, George Washington National Forest. Call 486-2887.
* Saturday-Monday: Tuscarora Gun Club Trap Shoot, traps open 9 a.m. each day, Tuscarora Gun Club, Frederick. Call John Stevens, 679-4199.
Planning ahead ...
* June 1-2: Call 974-3771 to sign on for a weekend canoe trip along the Potomac out of Green Ridge State Forest, with another trip planned June 15-16. Experienced paddlers only; $60 covers canoe rentals, transportation and meals.
Names and places ...
* Rumors of the hooking of black drum at the Stone Rock off Tilghman Island and the James Island shore just below there by rockfish trollers prompted Capt. Scott Kunowski of the charterboat Ruby Ann out of Chesapeake Beach to try with soft crab baits -- and he got a 53-pounder. This run usually doesn't get under way until early to mid-June, but drum are unpredictable. Tuesday and yesterday, boats did fairly well on them with crab baits.
If you hear the location Yucatan mentioned for drum, don't thin it's that well-known peninsula. This one is a spot along the James Island shore south of Tilghman where drum often pause before reaching the Stone Rock on Sharps Island Flats. Best drum fishing is in 18- to 25-foot depths.
* The headboat Tom Hooker out of Chesapeake Beach ha found spot and white perch in the Choptank, and beginning this week will sail daily. Call 1-301-257-2191.
* Wye River boat liveryman Charlie Schnaitman report collapsible crab trappers get from a dozen to a bushel of mostly medium crustaceans. Trot lines and hand lines also score, but not as well. Eels and chicken necks are the best baits. Yellow perch and some whites are also available, so are rowboat rentals (no motors) at moderate prices. Call 1-301-827-7663.
* Lightning struck twice for Robert Pirkey, who won the fishin contest at the 12-acre fee fishing pond at Goose Valley Fish Farm, Kennedyville. In 1991, he won the fall contest, and followed with a 3 1/2 -pounder over the weekend. Fishing from shore, Larry Jones of Kennedyville won most poundage honors with 34 pounds of hybrid rock, bass and bluegills.
In the one-day affair, an unidentified angler weighed in 2 1/4 -pound bluegill. In all, 196 hybrids were taken in this pond, which would be suitable for a family fishing junket either from a boat or the bank. It is open daily. Call 1-301-778-5300.
* Steve Schanberger of Baltimore Bass Chasers caught 21.8 pounds of bass to win the Maryland Mister Bass title in a two-day fish-off on the Susquehanna Flats. He will also be captain of the Maryland team in the 1991 BASS Eastern Division Tournament. Paul Koluch of Upper Bay BassMasters took six bass totaling 18.44 pounds for runner-up spot, and Tonie Riggio of Prettyboy BassMasters won the lunker prize for a 5.75-pounder.
* Baltimorean James Peleska's 89-pound black drum is tops s far in the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. He caught it off Oyster -- and the Cape Charles run is proceeding slowly. Not to be outdone, fellow Baltimorean Richard Ruskey leads in red drum with a 50 1/2 -pounder taken at Fishermens Island, and Ron A. Borlie has the top flounder of 6 3/4 pounds.
* Vojai Reed, 55, of Broken Bow, Okla., has made th professional bass'n boys pay attention. With 22 1/4 pounds of bass, she finished 58th (less than 2 pounds out of the money) in a field that included 233 men in the Missouri BASS Invitational at Harry Truman Reservoir. The former Bass'n Gal world champ and twice its Angler of the Year was the first woman to break the men's only BASS Master tournament trail.
Baltimoreans will get a chance to see her Aug. 22-24 when sh accompanies her husband Charlie, who will be among the field of 45 BASS Master Classic contenders. Hometown favorites in the classic are sure to be Roland Martin now of Clewiston, Fla., Randay Romig of Spring City, Pa., and Woo Daves of Chester, Va., all of whom have angling ties with Maryland and have gained classic berths.
Question box ...
* Harry Beecher is curious about catching Spanish mackerel when they arrive, which, incidentally can be sooner than we expect. He wants to know how to catch them. He hears they are tastier and more scrappy than blues.
Our answer: First the catching. Spanish mackerel are seldom target fish in the Chesapeake; instead they are taken while trolling or casting to bluefish. But, in recent years the summering population has continued to increase, much to the puzzlement and delight of veteran anglers who take them on trolled bluefish spoons.
However, a couple of lure suggestions for those who specificall want mackerel are Clark and Cather spoons. The Clark -- a traditional mackerel spoon -- is shaped like an elongated diamond, this to lessen twisted lines because mackerel generally prefer a faster moving bait. Try sizes 0 and No. 1, which sell for from about $2.25 to $2.50. This lure is a killer for macks, and blues will take it.
The Cather is closer in configuration to our traditional ba spoons, is available in gold or silver, and is priced from $2.75 to $3. In this line, choose sizes Nos. 2 1/2 and 3. Not considering the tail hook, mackerel lures are 2 to 3 inches long, and are suitable for casting to breaking schools, which not infrequently chase bait to the surface.
Often, macks break alongside blues, and can be distinguishe because they pop right out of the water almost straight up. They fight that way, too, but fishermen can argue forever -- and probably will -- as to which is the best fighter. Let's say their scrap is comparable to that of a blue, but the taste is better. No argument there.
Mackerel -- which have threatening sharp teeth like blues - usually weigh a couple of pounds. Occasionally one reaches 4 pounds or more. They are not as plentiful as blues, so perhaps it's better to troll bluefish patterns, and if mackerel are seen or caught, rig a couple of rods with Cathers or Clarks. It would be unwise to rig all lines with mackerel lures and set out intentionally for them -- unless we have an unprecedented run.
Currently, there are reports of an early migration of mackerel i fairly large numbers headed toward the mouth of the Potomac area. They are ahead of their schedule of recent years, but so little is known of the species we just have to wait and see what develops. If they keep moving north they will be a most welcome addition to the sportsfishing menu.
* NOTE: To have an item or question included in the Outdoor Journal, write Bill Burton, The Evening Sun Sports Dept., 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.
Burton's best bets
* POINT LOOKOUT: Many blues here.
* STONE ROCK: Black drum mixed in with rockfish.
* BAY BRIDGE: Keep trying here for rock.
* MILLER ISLAND: White perch here and at Craig Hill Light.
@4 * CHOPTANK: White perch, also early Norfolk spot.