The blues are so thick you have to beat them off! You'll be lucky to catch anything else. . .too early for rockfish,"
That's what the man at the bait shop just south of Davidsonville, Md., said when I stopped in for some steel leaders and line enroute to the South River for a day of Bay fishing to the Saturday.
Now, I'm not much of a fisherman, but the previous week while dawdling a spoon behind a friend's boat because the water was so rough we had to proceed at troll speed coming back from a waterskiing trip, I had hooked - and lost - a good-size rock fish.
I figured I was going to have a helluva day if I could get a rock with a rusty spoon when I wasn't trying and they were the tough ones, since the man said you had to beat off the blues.
"What're the blues hitting?" I asked, appearing to want to make sure I stayed away from that lure, all those unwanted fish being so troublesome.
He allowed as how they were hitting the small eel lures, mostly the green and red ones.
I bought two red eels, along with a tin of clam necks and another spoon to go with my already proven one, and my friend Sam and I set out for his boat, which was to be gassed up and waiting at a South River marinal.
Our wives had said they would wait for us to start supper. We were going to bring back a load of fresh fish.
Of course, the boat was not in the water when we arrived.It was sitting high and dry on its trailer, the man had neglected to put it over.
When we finally put it in, we had to spend half an hour disconnecting the gear on the lower unit of the inboard-outboard after we discovered it no longer worked and the unit was locked in the "up" position.
Through the painful experience of owning three boats I have learned that the best boat you can use - the only one that's trouble-free and will not drive you to your local pawnbroker - is someone else's.
With no gear to lock the unit down we could not use reverse, and I cautioned Sam about this several times as we started out - a faulty boat was not going to keep us from all those fish.
We smashed into the dock as we pulled up for gas. I was sitting on the bow and did not hold us off since I was expecting Sam to hit reverse as we approached, like he always does. It was me who forgot we couldn't use reverse.
With the boat's dented bow and my chagrined spirits, we limped out toward the bay - those fish were waiting and we could relax while reeling them in, since relatively smooth, less than foot-high waves were forecast.
We couldn't wait to put our lines over. We put them out long before we reached the mouth of the South River.
Sam almost immediately caught the biggest thing he'd ever hooked. I think it ran about 8,000 pounds. It was a brief fight, with Sam reeling furiously, but the sailboat that crossed our wake while we weren't looking took one of the new red eels and several yards of Sam's line with it.
I lost my lucky spoon on a crab pot.
But on we continued from morning through the gray afternoon, water breaking over our dented bow - that one-foot chop turned out to be 2 1/2-foot waves.
We tried my new spoon, the second eel, an assortment of plugs and even a green worm lure I thought fish might mistake for a small eel.
We drift-fished for five miles dragging clam necks and other lures.
When we finished our coffee and sandwiches, we finished a half-pint of imported liquid.
We bottom-fished at anchor for two hours.
We didn't even get a nibble.
Finally, in desperation, I searched through my tackle box one last time and came up with a little fresh-water lure - a rubber fish about two inches long with a small, shiny spoon in front of it.
At least this looked a fish, I thought, and I told Sam to circle the lighthouse one last time before we headed home.
I ran my lure out about 50 yards and lit a cigaret.
When I looked back at it, my line was in the air.
Strange, I thought, and began reeling in.
Then I saw the seagull flapping furiously, my realistic lure in his bill.
I reeled the befuddled bird in and Sam and I dislodged the hook. The bird flapped happily away as we limped home in the boat.
At least now I knew what lure to use if I ever go fishing for seagulls.
Our wives called cheerily from the door, joined by my six-year-old son, when we parked in front of Sam's house.
"What'd you catch?" they yelled.
It wasn't easy confessing that we got an 8,000-pound sailboat and a seagull, both of which we let go.