TILGHMAN -- "Oh, not another one already," Bobbie Seger said to no one in particular as she left her deck chair and again took up her fishing rod. "I was just going to get out my book, but these blues won't give me a moment's peace."
Two hours out of Harrison's Fishing Center in Talbot County, with 18 or so 3- to 5-pound bluefish already in the box, the fishing had indeed been good -- and there had been little down time for the Seger family of Easton and Oxford and their houseguests from Denmark.
"Days like this remind me of what it used to be like fishing out
here," Bobbie's husband, George, said last Thursday morning. "We used to fish out here a lot as a family, but then rockfish came and went and came back and the big blues disappeared. Once rockfish season closes, it hasn't been worth it to run the boat out the Choptank to fish."
Capt. Bud Harrison said the current small blitz of bluefish took area charterboat operators somewhat by surprise. But with the spring rockfish seasons ending last Tuesday, the blues have been making for upbeat captains and customers.
"We had heard the blues about this size had been moving into Tangier Sound," said Harrison, skipper of the Beaudacious. "We didn't expect them to be this far north this soon, but if they'll stick around for a while, it will really take the pressure off the hardheads and the drum, which are making a second run."
Harrison and three other boats out of the fishing center were working an area called the Stone Rock, west of Sharp's Island Light off the mouth of the Choptank River, trolling red hoses from the deep channel edge in water as shallow as about 15 feet.
"The fish have their noses in the mud, eating clam worms, I expect," said Harrison. "So the lures are running just off the bottom, and the sinkers are bouncing bottom."
Through mid-morning, the blues came aboard in small flurries, all 3 to 5 pounds, all offering Finn Hammer Pedersen a decent fight.
"Ah! A fighter, this one is, too," Pedersen said often. "When they fight back it is better, yes?"
Pedersen, who travels the world bidding repair and refurbishment jobs on ocean-going ships for Fredericia Skibsvaerf A/S shipyards in Denmark, has fished globally.
"But at home there is nothing like this," said Pedersen, waving his hand around the open cockpit of the Beaudacious. "At home, you fish in 12-, 14-, 16-foot boats, alone or with maybe one other person.
"You are with the sea and the weather and the fish and sometimes you struggle a little more, yes."
Fishing in Denmark, Pedersen said, is mostly for cod, a coldwater bottom feeder that usually ranges from 6 to 50 pounds.
"Here, we are in very shallow water, but there the fish are 80 meters deep, or 240 feet or more," Pedersen said. "Here, you use good rods and reels, there you use a line and your hands."
And a half pound or more of weight to get the bait to the bottom and keep it from being swept away by the current, Pedersen said.
"You take the weight and drop it to the bottom and then lift it a little off the bottom and drop it again," said Pedersen, demonstrating a jigging motion. "When the fish bites, then there is the fight.
"Sometimes, when I have gone out with my father, he has caught 25 fish and I have caught maybe five. I am very tired afterward, but he is always ready for more."
By late morning, the bigger blues had stopped biting, and 1- to 2-pounders had begun to hit sporadically.
Bobbie Seger had her book out and Jette Pedersen, Finn Hammer's wife, was often at the rod, reeling in fish her husband teasingly called "gaffelbeiters," sardines.
Earlier in the day, after some prompting by her husband and the Segers, Jette caught the first fish of her life and probably the largest blue of the day. She would have been happier, she said, if she'd caught a large eel, so she could smoke it that evening the Danish way and serve it in a thick, parsley sauce.
The suggestion caused several eyebrows to rise.
"Ah, gaffelbeiter! Another one yet," said Finn Hammer, "Where is this black drumfish? The one with the chin barbels and the ugly head? The big one with the strong fight?"
Harrison had had a school of drum targeted on the Stone Rock for several days, and shortly after 1 p.m. he positioned Beaudacious to drift past a private marker he'd set out earlier.
Six lines, each baited with half a peeler crab, were dropped to the bottom on Harrison's command, and Beaudacious drifted for perhaps 100 yards before the command was given to bring the lines in.
"You almost have to hit the fish in the head to get them to bite," said Mike Seger.
"No, you have to hit them in the right eye to get them to bite," joked Mike's father, George. "Hit them in the left eye and they won't take the bait."
Each time Beaudacious left the drift line, another of the fishing center boats entered it, lines were dropped and then retrieved on command.
The procession continued through perhaps 10 turns for each boat before the convoy broke up.
"They're stacked up on the fish finder. They just aren't biting," Harrison said and turned Beaudacious into the Choptank for a few drifts for hardhead and spot before heading back to the docks.
"I've seen the Chesapeake when everything was at its best," Bill Seger said on the run in. "Rockfish all year around, 15- to 20-pound bluefish in the spring, rafts of canvasback ducks covering acres of water, hordes of black ducks and the rise and fall of the Canada geese.
"I've still got dozens of ducks in my yard that I feed every day. I get some geese in the winter and catch some rockfish in the spring and fall, but I don't expect we ever will see the Chesapeake again as some of the older guys around have seen it. Today? Today was just a glimpse."