FISHING IS FAST becoming a contact sport.

Here's a story that comes from Roy Edwards of the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries:

Bob Taylor of Pamplin, Va., was fishing in a night bass tournament earlier this month at Smith Mountain Lake in southern Virginia. Something suddenly took off "on a sizzling run" with the black plastic worm that he was fishing. "Taylor hung on as best he could, but suddenly his line went slack."

Well, too bad, the one that got away, and all that. Welcome to the club. Taylor started to reel in.

His fishing partner suddenly made a mad dash for the front end of the boat.

"A great musky, fully four feet long, had jumped into the craft."

So what does Taylor do? He jumps out, saying: Take my boat. The keys are in the ignition. Right?

Not in this story.

Taylor dives on this fish and starts wrestling with it.

Honest.

And during the scuffle, the musky bites down on his finger, "tearing ligaments and chipping bone."

But this story does have a happy ending.

Taylor's fine. He went to the emergency room and got back to the tournament in time to place second.

And the musky apparently is doing fine. After biting Taylor, it bounced out of the boat. Licking its chops, no doubt. WHAT'S THE CATCH?

WASHINGTON AND VICINITY

The catfishing is the only bright spot in an otherwise dim outlook on the Potomac, according to Dan Ward of Fletcher's Boat House. The bait to use now on the catfish is clam snouts, he said.

"So many people were catching catfish with clam snouts that we finally went out and got some," Ward said. "We don't normally stock them as bait, but people were doing so well with them that we decided to supply them."

Ward thinks that the fishing has improved slightly because of the recent rains, which he said cooled the water temperature a little and "the fish have responded."

He said a few very experienced fishermen were catching rockfish by trolling deep-diving lures, but noted that they were the exception and not the rule. The rockfish "are very scattered out there and you really have to know where to go," he said. "Supposedly the schools of menhaden are beginning to show up, and if they do, the rocks will follow."

There have been reports of spot in the river as far up as National Airport, but Ward is skeptical. "As far as spot go, I would have to see them with my own eyes before I would believe they would come up this far." MARYLAND

LOWER POTOMAC -- The fishing for perch and spot is very good around Cobb Island in both the Wicomico River and the Potomac, according to Jack Yates of Captain John's Crab House and Marina.

And the bluefish, which were around earlier but left, are back, he said. The blues, ranging up to about three pounds, are hitting surgical hose trolled deep with about six ounces of lead on the line.

UPPER POTOMAC -- The fishing in the Potomac around Frederick is "pretty decent," according to Bill Offutt of Fox's. "One person got a nice catfish weighing 183/4 pounds on chicken livers at Point of Rocks on the Maryland side," Offutt said, adding that a number of largemouth and smallmouth bass up to 31/4 pounds had been brought in that had been caught in the Potomac.

"It may be hot, but the fishing is okay," Offutt said.

Echoing that sentiment was Rob Gilford of The Rod Rack in Frederick.

"There are a lot of large fish being caught for this real hot weather. I have no idea why they are hitting like they are. It is very unusual," Gilford said.

Some of his customers were doing particularly well with black and chartreuse gator-tailed plastic worms, Gilford said. VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA -- "They're starting to get into a few good fish," said Phil Norris of Sturgeon's Creek Marina. The largemouth "are still pretty deep, but you can catch a few in shallow water," he said.

An eight-pounder was caught in "six or seven feet of water" last Sunday in the rain, he said. Some six- seven-pound largemouth also were caught this week. Norris advised using plastic worms. Crankbaits also are working well, he said.

The crappie and catfish are biting, Norris said, and stripers are still being caught.

RAPPAHANNOCK -- If you're thinking of giving the Rappahannock a try this week, think again. The 51/2 inches of rain last weekend really wiped out the fishing, said Karl Gentry of Chesley's Tackle Shop.

"She's really high and red and muddy," he said of the river. "It won't be fishable till the first part of next week."

CHESAPEAKE BAY

In general, the fishing remains good to excellent on both shores of the Bay for bluefish, and somewhat less predictable for other species, such as trout, flounder, hardhead (croakers) and spot.

ANNAPOLIS -- Small snapper bluefish from 11/2 to 3 pounds are being caught in the mouth of the Severn River on the western shore and from Gum Thicket to Bloody Point and Poplar Island on the eastern shore, reports Marv Walls of Angler's. The bluefish are breaking on the surface and are spread out all over, he said. Trollers are having good luck with small-diameter surgical hose, while small spoons and surface lures work well when cast to the breaking fish.

Some keeper-sized flounder and hardheads are being caught in the mouth of the Magothy River and also in the Severn River, Walls said.

CAPE CHARLES -- "It's kind of slow," said Emmett Bailey of Bailey's Tackle Shop. "The weather's been so hot, people aren't going fishing" -- so there haven't been any catches worth mentioning.

Except one. Bailey said he weighed in a 13-pound bluefish this week. That's not only a big fish, but it's also big news. That means that "bluefish have just moved back in," he said, "and big ones." Recently there haven't been any blues in Cape Charles waters, Bailey said. CHESAPEAKE BAY-BRIDGE TUNNEL -- The action here has slowed to a crawl, according to Louis Watson at The Sea Gull Pier.

"The red drum have disappeared. We're catching a few small flounder and some small trout, and not many blues," Watson said.

DEALE -- "I don't know what the magnet is, but it's working," Capt. Tim Johnson said of this year's bumper crop of bluefish in Herring Bay.

One boat came back with 200 blues -- caught in last Sunday's heavy rain, Johnson said.

And on Monday Johnson took a charter out in "five-foot seas, where the gulls almost were washed in, and blues were breaking on the surface . . . A wave would start to roll and, on top, bluefish were churning," he said.

"It makes you shake your head and wonder what brought so many of them to Herring Bay and what's keeping them there," Johnson said.

He recommended trolling from marker 70 to 28B. That's heading toward Poplar Island on the eastern side of the Bay. The area off Poplar Island is "just thick with blues," Johnson said.

Use spoons, he advised, because the blues are feeding on two-. The color of spoon doesn't seem to matter, he said. White and silver spoons are equally effective.

The baitfish are on the surface, he added, so you don't need to troll deep. If you're using a light bait, troll slow, he said. Troll faster for heavier baits.

POINT LOOKOUT -- The head boats are catching a lot of bluefish, mostly in the three-e occasional one also weighing up to 17 pounds, according to Norman Bishop of "The Lucky Lady."

Trout were being caught over the rockpile in Cornfield Harbor at the mouth of the Potomac, Bshop said, but the area was so small and so many boats were fishing there that it was almost like a shoving match.

"The trout are schooled there in that one area, which is about one hundred feet by one hundred feet. There are so many boats out there, it's like they are just pushing each other off the area," he said.

Meanwhile, surfcasters off the causeway are still hauling in the small blues, according to Pat Raley of Sister's Place.

SOLOMONS ISLAND -- There are plenty of bluefish around, according to Doris Johnson of H.M. Woodburn's fishing parties. "The bluefish are most everywhere; they're even breaking in the mouth of the creek," she said.

There also is plenty of action for bottom fishermen, she said. Small and jumbo spot and even some hardheads are being caught right by the bridge.

Some trout are being taken very early in the morning and very late in the evening off Drum Point, she said.

"And a lot of people are coming here to go crabbing. The crabs are swimming right on top of the water. I guess it's because the water is so hot," she said.

"I would say that the chances of catching something here right now are very good," she said. ATLANTIC OCEAN

This is turning into a poor year for fishermen on the beaches and near shore, but a good year for those who can afford a charter boat trip out to the Gulf Stream.

OCEAN CITY -- Some flounder, small blues and trout are being caught in the inlet and in the bay, according to April Detig of the Boardwalk Fishing Pier. The fishing off the pier has "not been too great," she said.

"There have been some blues and some flounder, and some spot starting (this week). The spot should have been here three weeks ago.

"Everything is running real slow this year. I think it may be the weather. Every week we have a few days with bad northeast winds. The winds make the water real choppy andthat stirs up the bottom and the water gets real dirty. I've never seen a summer like this one."

VIRGINIA BEACH -- The charter boats fishing the Gulf Stream 60 miles out have started bringing in yellowfin tuna, according to Ann Wright of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center.

"Also, we're still seing a lot of good-sized dolphin and they are still catching white marlins. Most of those are being released," she said. "Closer in, things are real slow. We are discouraging people from even trying anything closer to shore.

"Until the blues come back in October, we don't expect too much."