AUTUMN FISHING in the Delmarva region is among the best on the eastern seaboard, yet it's also the most neglected.

Many anglers put away their fishing gear soon after Labor Day, thinking the best fishing is over. In reality, the best of the season is just getting under way.

The schools of blues roaming the Upper Chesapeake Bay are now larger, and feeding heavily in preparation for their fall migration. White and yellow perch are concentrated in the creeks, and the Lower Bay is bracing for an excellent run of large sea trout.

The key to the bluefish is the drop in water temperature that usually drives baitfish to the surface as they make their way toward the ocean. Naturally, this also makes them easy pickings for the bluefish, which always seem to be looking for a meal of fresh menhaden. These days, blues can be seen breaking anywhere you look.

Just this past week, within five minutes of launching a boat at Chesapeake Beach, my friends and I found ourselves on top of a massive school of three- Reports coming in over the radio from some of the charter boats indicated catches of sea trout were also being made just south of us.

Yet, there were only three boats visible on the distant horizon -- we had the entire Chesapeake almost to ourselves. Nearly every cast resulted in an arm-jolting strike, and within an hour, our large cooler was brimming with blues. Had this been taking place during mid-summer, there would have been several other boats trying to get as close to us as possible.

These conditions will last until late October or early November, depending on the water temperature. When the water chills to 58 degrees, the blues, sea trout and other migratory species will leave the Bay like a shot. So go fish -- this is te best time to catch all the fish you'll need to stock the freezer for winter. WHAT'S THE CATCH?

WASHINGTON AND VICINITY

Around the 14th Street Bridge largemouth bass fishing has been excellent for the past several weeks. Several anglers report catching bucketmouths weighing up to four pounds, but you'll find the average weight closer to two pounds. Small action-tailed-shad imitations have produced the better catches.

A few stripers are still lingering in the same area, and they'll take the same lures fished close to the pilings. MARYLAND

POTOMAC RIVER, LANDER -- The river level is a bit higher, but the crystal-clear water has made smallmouth fishing tough for most anglers. The most productive times have been early in the morning and again late in the evening. Avid fly fishermen seem to be catching the majority of the smallmouths by casting white maribou streamers into the deeper pools.

POTOMAC, HARPERS FERRY -- Although the majority of the bass are concenrated in the deeper pools, you'll find lots of activity at the base of some of the rapids. Small crankbaits cast upstream and worked slowly through the fast water have produced catches of 15 to 20 smallmouths a day. The water temperature is rapidly decreasing, and this fantastic fishing won't last more than another three weeks.

TRIADELPHIA RESERVOIR -- Smallmouth bass fishing couldn't be better, according to Fishing and Archery Outfitters in Laurel. The bronzebacks are taking traditional bass lures fished close to shore, but if you're a serious bass fisherman, live crayfish are producing the larger fish.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER -- The Susquehanna is alive with every imaginable species of gamefish. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are everywhere you cast a lure in the lower river. Garrett Island anglers are hooking up with some dandy largemouths using small crankbaits and plastic worms.

The average bass here has been tipping the scales at nearly two pounds, but several five- pounders have been caught during the past week. The best smallmouth action has been near the mouth of Deer Creek. Live crayfish fished on the bottom have been the most productive bait for the bronzebacks.

SUSQUEHANNA FLATS -- Bass fishing in the weed beds of the flats has been excellent for the better part of two weeks according to Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in Northeast. The fish are tightly schooled and taking small swimming plugs cast along the edge of the drop-offs.

Catfish weighing up to eight pounds seem to be concentrated in the deeper cuts near the main channel and they'll take nightcrawlers or cut bait fished on the bottom.

Scattered catches of white perch are also being made in the same area. Bloodworms and spinners have accounted for the better catches of these tasty bottom feeders.

DUNDEE AND GUNPOWDER RIVERS -- Sue Demaf at Gunpowder Bait and Tackle in Essex reports the yellow perch are plentiful along the shores of the Gunpowder and Dundee rivers. These fish arrived earlier than usual and can easily be caught on light tackle. Live minnows fished under a float have proved effective on the perch.

Some good-sized white perch are also in the same area and they'll take the same bait. Bass fishing at the back end of the Dundee has dropped off a bit, but a few sunny days could change these conditions quickly. CHESAPEAKE BAY

UPPER CHESAPEAKE -- The blues are thick as fleas in the Upper Bay, according to Clyde's Sport Shop in Baltimore. These fish average about three pounds, but each day a monster of 18 to 20 pounds is taken from the beach at Fort Smallwood.

The blues are roaming the shallow waters near the mouth of the Patapsco River in huge packs and will hit any lure that falls in the water. White perch fishing in this area have been somewhat slower than usual for this time of year, but should improve with the arrival of cooler weather.

BAY BRIDGE AREA -- "Fishing Charlie" Ebensberger at the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50 says the fishing has been outstanding near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. White perch are concentrated in the Magothy River near Gibson Island and blues are breaking throughout the area.

The most productive bait for the perch has been chunks of peeler crab hooked up on a top-and-bottom rig. The blues are taking surface plugs cast to them when they're breaking, and diamond-patterned Tony Aceta spoons seem to produce best for the trollers. Good numbers of flounder have shown up near the bridge, and some are running up to two pounds. Live minnows and squid strips fished on the bottom have been effective.

CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- Captain Shaker Black at the Rod 'n' Reel Dock there was busy scheduling charters this past week to take advantage of 15 acres of blues breaking just to the south. Just 10 minutes running time from the beach and you'll find all the blues you can handle -- they're everywhere you look and will eat anything that won't eat them first. A few sea trout are scattered throughout the same area and they'll hit a yellow bucktail trimmed with a piece of peeler or soft shelled crab.

DEALE -- Captain George Prenant on the "Stormy Petrel" has been trolling the middle Bay just out from the radar towers and loading the fish box with lots of five-pound blues. Prenant says it's just a matter of setting the lines, trolling a few minutes and cranking in the fish.

PATUXENT RIVER -- Ken Lamb at The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports excellent fishing for jumbo spot at the mouth of the Patuxent River, and a few trout are mixed with them. However, the best sea trout fishing is out at the Pipeline near the Gas Docks at Cove Point. The only problem you encounter here is strong tides, which make fishing the submerged rock piles difficult. Bucktails trimmed with peeler or soft crabs are producing the better catches. If crab baits aren't avai a chartreuse plastic worm hooked to the bucktail is a good substitute.

SOLOMONS ISLAND -- Captain Bill Meadows on the "El Toro" has been trolling the edge of the shipping channel and loading up on six-hout most of the season. Bill's secret to success has been a medium-size yellow bucktail with a pink head. This particular lure has outfished all other patterns and is deadly when trimmed with a combination of peeler crab and plastic worm.

POINT LOOKOUT -- Captain Bruce Scheible at Scheible's Fishing Center is getting ready for the fall run of sea trout. According to Scheible, both the speckled and gray trout should arrive within the next few days and they'll concentrate on the rock piles in Cornfield Harbor and the Middle Grounds.

The bottom fishing at the mouth of the Potomac is fantastic throughout the month of October and excellent catches of sea trout, spot, croaker and sea bass are now being made on a variety of baits. Light tackle anglers are working the area with bloodworms and peeler crab baits nearly every day. Blues running up to 13 pounds are breaking throughout the daylight hours and they'll hit surface plugs like a freight train.

KENT ISLAND -- The stone pile at the end of the outfall pipe next to the Bay Bridge has been a hot spot for some large flounder according to the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50 in Annapolis. They arrived last week and will take small jigs trimmed with a live minnow or squid strip fished close to the bottom.

Scattered catches of trout are also being made in the same area. The only problem you'll encounter while fishing for the flounder is keeping the blues off your line. The snappers are everywhere and will hit any lure or bait that gets within range.

TILGHMAN ISLAND -- Captain Buddy Harrison's charter fleet running out of the Chesapeake House has been catching all the blues they can handle. Trolling surgical hose eels through the breaking fish has resulted in fantastic catches during the past week.

Scattered catches of sea trout are still being made at the Stone Rock just above Sharps Island Light on the calmer days. Many boats report landing up to a dozen or more ten-pounders using peeler crab for bait.

CAMBRIDGE -- If you're looking for variety, the Choptank River is the place to go fishing this weekend. Tommy's Sport Center reports good concentrations of white perch in the mouths of the creeks and lots of blues breaking throughout the area.

In addition, sea trout have shown up near Castle Haven and good catches of jumbo spot and flounder continue just off Black Wallnut Point at the wreck.

CRISFIELD -- Sea trout fishing in the sound has not been as good as anticipated this season, according to Captain Bryan Yingline on the "Doris K III," but the fish they're taking now are really huge. Trout weighing up to 12 pounds are scattered throughout the area and they'll hit a bucktail trimmed with a chunk of peeler crab and jigged along the bottom.

Bottom fishing remains fairly good for inshore anglers working the shallows. Spot, croaker and a few flounder are being taken in waters less than ten feet deep.

CAPE CHARLES -- Diana Stiles at King's Creek Marina reports the red drum are still here, and many tip the scales at over 50 pounds. Bottom fishing remains excellent for a variety of species. Sea trout, flounder, croaker, spot and sea bass are all abundant in relatively shallow water close to shore.

The big news is that the tautog are back, and bigger than ever. Most of the wrecks are now producing excellent catches of these tasty fish weighing up to 12 pounds. Tautog primarily feed on small crabs and sand fleas. Although they have a small mouth, they can easily crush the hard shell of a crab with only the slightest hint they are on the end of your line. Once hooked, these fish demonstrate their strength as they head for the nearest obstruction. Pound for pound, they're one of the best tasting fish in our area, yet few anglers know of their presence.

Captain Otis Asal on the "Bucaneer" says he's now booking weekend trips for tautog, and the numbers of fish now in the area indicate this will be a fantastic season for them. The tautog will stay in the area throughout the winter months. ATLANTIC OCEAN

OCEAN CITY -- If you're looking for sea trout, Ocean City is definitely the hot spot this weekend. Just a half mile from the beach, anglers are loading up on all the trout they can handle. The average weakfish now tips the scales at three pounds, but several six- eight-pounders have been caught during the past week.

Mixed with the trout are some dandy croaker, snapper blues and a few dusky sharks. The fall migration has just started along the coast, which usually means you have at least three weeks of excellent fishing left before the fish head southward to warmer waters.

LEWES -- The tautog are plentiful at the rock piles near the inlet, according to Captain H.D. Parsons at The Fisherman's Wharf. Some boats report catching up to 300 tog during a single morning using sand fleas and crab baits. Tog traditionally stay inshore during the colder months and feed on crustaceans taking refuge in the rocks. This means you'll lose lots of terminal tackle when fishing for them, but the results justify the expense.