THE ESSEX Middle River Chapter of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association is holding its first-ever Classic Fishing Tournament August 1-2. Eligible species: catfish, white perch and bluefish. First prize in the main division is $500 for the largest of each species, and one lucky angler will take home a 1987 pickup (or $5,000 cash). For details call 301/682-5640 evenings.WHAT'S THE CATCH?

WASHINGTON AND VICINITY POTOMAC RIVER -- Fishing's red hot all over. The upper reaches have produced outstanding catches of smallmouths from 10 inches to 2 pounds. Most action has been at the heads of the pools, where small twisters, streamer flies, crankbaits and minnow/jig combinations are just the easy meal the bronzebacks are waiting for. Downriver, near Wilson Bridge, largemouth bass are active despite the heat. Guide Mike Draper, working hydrilla beds, has hooked loads of medium bass with plastic worms and small crankbaits. Draper says he's seeing lots of smaller fish, a positive indication of last year's hatch. Guide Charlie Taylor has been catching lots of largemouths on the edge of hydrilla beds and says larger fish seem to be holding in 12 to 25 feet. Taylor also beats the heat by anchoring in the shade of Wilson Bridge, baiting a chunk of nightcrawler and lowering it to the bottom. Then it's just a matter of placing the rod in a rod holder, opening a can of your favorite beverage and waiting for 2- to 4-pound channel cats to hit. Believe it or not, there are still white and yellow perch in the river, some citation-sized. Small beetle spins and live minnows work best.

MARYLAND

TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE -- Bob Griffith at Fishing and Archery Outfitters in Laurel reports lots of smaller bass still caught at both WSSC lakes on live minnows, plastic worms and tiny crankbaits fished close to the structure. Although most average a pound or two, a few 4-pounders are being caught in early morning and late evening. Scattered crappies are also being caught. LOCH RAVEN AND LIBERTY RESERVOIRS -- Both watershed lakes are producing fair to good catches of crappies and bass. Loch Raven anglers find the best action in deep coves. Live minnows and deep diving crankbaits have produced several 4- to 5-pounders. Liberty Reservoir has been the hot spot for crappies. Doug Llyons at Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle says they're primarily caught near Niccodemus Bridge on live minnows and small jigs. Bass fishing's been best early and late when the water temperature is down. (Currently, it's about 78 degrees.)

VIRGINIA LAKE OCCOQUAN -- Park Ranger Bob Linn reports good catches of catfish and crappies . Catties and crappies are holding in about 10 to 12 feet of water. Linn says the water temperature is over the 80-degree mark, making bass fishing tough. Scattered largemouths are being taken along the shoreline structure by anglers casting small crankbaits and live minnows. LAKE ANNA -- Guide Gene Hord is still loading up on stripers, but Hord admits pleasure boaters are making fishing tougher than normal on weekends. Hord recently hooked several stripers weighing up to 9 pounds while fishing in the central portion. Pete Sprague says catfish action has been pretty good and several channel cats were caught this week weighing up to 6 pounds. Bass fishing has been off, but should improve as boating traffic subsides. JAMES RIVER -- Smallmouth fishing has been excellent according to Timberlake Sporting Goods in Lynchburg. Smallmouths ranging from 1 to 3 pounds are taking tiny crankbaits, plastic worms and top water lures early and late. RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- There are lots of smallmouths in the river, but only a few anglers have bothered to venture out for bronzebacks. Carl Gentry at Chesley's Sporting Goods in Fredericksburg says the heat and humidity have sent anglers scrambling for shelter. There have been huge carp caught, the largest a whopping 25-pounder bagged by Tom Willingham of Remington. SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- The best striper fishing is still at night. Guide Bob King says they are taking a variety of lures including jointed plugs and bucktails fished close to the surface. Some bass are also being caught at night, but day fishing has been limited to catfish and crappies.

CHESAPEAKE BAY SUSQUEHANNA RIVER -- Most fishermen are catching catfish, carp and a few smallmouth bass here. Butch Young at Fisherman's Park says catties are taking cut bait and nightcrawlers in fast water below spillways. Downriver, near Robert Island, fair catches of both largemouths and smallmouths are being made among grass beds while casting small bright-colored plastic worms. SUSQUEHANNA FLATS --

Bass fishing has been tough for two weeks on the Flats. Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in North East says the better action has been during high and outgoing tides. Good catches of catfish are being made throughout the area, running up to 5 or more pounds. Nightcrawlers fished on the bottom have been producing the better catches. UPPER BAY -- White perch fishing has dropped off here, too, says Bill Blamberg at Clyde's Sport Shop. The few perch being taken are mostly undersized and not worth keeping. Out in deeper water at Seven Foot Knoll and Hodges Bar, fair catches of large perch have been reported by the captains at Bluefish Fishing Guides. Captain Dave Lessner at Wedidit Charters has been hooking loads of white perch and some good-sized catties north of Brewerton Channel near Tollchester. These are large, broad-shouldered perch that really tax lightweight fishing tackle. ROCK HALL -- Captain Wayne Gatling on the Lara Lynn IV located huge, swirling schools of blues last Sunday at Swan Point. They were hitting small silver spoons cast and trolled along the edge of the sand bar, and weighed 3 to 6 pounds. Fair catches of perch were made in the same vicinity, but blues have pushed them to the north. BAY BRIDGE AREA -- "The blues are here and they're breaking," says "Fishin' Charlie" Ebersberger at the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50. They range 2 to 5 pounds and have been breaking late in the evening. The larger concentrations of choppers have been at Brick House Bar, Hacketts Point and the mouths of the Severn and South rivers. Small surface plugs have produced well when the fish are breaking, but you'll have to troll red surgical hose eels and small spoons to hook blues when they're deep. SOUTH RIVER -- Captain George Cord on the Sea Dove has been finding fair concentrations of blues while fishing south of Poplar Island. Just north of the island, near the mouth of Eastern Bay, anglers have found another school of black drum. They are taking drifted softshell crabs and peelers, which are in extremely short supply. Crabbing has also been off in many areas, but sport crabbers running trot lines in the Wye River are finding extremely large crabs, albeit in small numbers. CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- Calvin Tyler at Tyler's Tackle Shop says blues have reappeared in numbers and some good-sized spot have shown up too. They are holding on the Eastern Shore side of the Bay near the False Channel and range from 4 to 10 pounds. DEALE -- Captain George Prenant on the Stormy Petrel has been running across the Bay and hooking several 6- to 10-pound blues while trolling with red surgical hose eels. They are running in 25 to 35 feet of water, but are often close to the surface and breaking. When blues get on top, Prenant will pick up spinning gear and toss topwater lures at them. TILGHMAN ISLAND -- Captain Buddy Harrison's charter fleet has been finding good concentrations of sea trout near the mouth of the Choptank. These are mostly spike-sized ranging from 12 to 16 inches. Bloodworms and peeler crab baits fished on the bottom have produced the better catches. Fair catches of chopper blues weighing from 3 to 10 pounds are being made just south of the river's mouth by anglers trolling red surgical hose eels. HOOPER ISLAND -- Sea trout action continues to please anglers fishing the mouth of the Honga River. Captain Henry Gootee on the Striker has been hooking all the 1- to 3-pound trout his parties can handle. In addition, the first flounder have migrated into the river and several similar-sized flatties were caught this week. Squid strips were good for flounder while trout are taking chunks of peeler crab and bloodworms fished on the bottom. CRISFIELD -- Sea trout, spot, flounder and some croaker -- that's just part of the action at Crisfield. Captain Curtis Johns on the Lady-A reports good catches of trout weighing from 1 to 3 pounds just a few minutes' ride from Janes Island Light. Johns says flounder action has been fairly good, but only a handful of anglers have bothered to try for these tasty fish. Captain Dick Arnold on the Robin-L says on an average day he catches about two dozen keeper-sized flounder while bottom fishing for other species. Captain Leroy Yingling on the Doris K III reports bottom fishing good to excellent in both Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. Captain Bud Thomas on the Lar Joy II says the weather is hot and so is sea trout fishing. Thomas has been bottom fishing for trout and loading coolers nearly every trip. PATUXENT RIVER -- The bottom of the Patuxent River seems to be paved with jumbo spot and sea trout. Several anglers this past week loaded up on both species. George Lauterbach at First Marine reports being mobbed with people looking for bloodworms and peelers, which are increasingly becoming tough to locate. Captain Bill Meadows on the El Toro has been bottom fishing and loading the coolers with spot that often top the 1-pound mark. Captain Lou Snyder on the Julie Lynn went fishing on the windiest day last week and filled the coolers with a combination of jumbo spot and spike trout within a few hours. Sea trout, blues, jumbo spot and some croaker weighing up to 3 pounds have been providing some wild action for the past several weeks. POINT LOOKOUT -- Some good-sized flounder have arrived in Cornfield Harbor and the few anglers that know how to fish for the flatties have really done well. Sally Scheible at Scheible's Fishing Center reports the fleet has been catching loads of blues at the southern end of the Middle Grounds. Captain Eddie Davis on the Edith Rose says the blues are ranging up to 10 pounds. TALL TIMBERS -- Captain Mopey Barber on the Mopey Rose has been fishing near Ragged Point and loading the coolers with huge catches of jumbo spot. These fish are ranging up to more than a pound and hitting bottom-fished bloodworms. Scattered catches of croaker are also being made in the same vicinity. CAPE CHARLES -- Captain Done Stiles at Kings Creek Marina says the mouth of the Chesapeake has been invaded with spike sea trout weighing up to 2 pounds, croaker weighing up to 3 pounds, jumbo spot, sharks of all sizes (some tipping the scales at 250 pounds and more) and cobia of up to 60 pounds. And when your arms get tired you can head for the shallows and hook some nice-sized flounder. Last week, Stiles guided a party to an area just south of the Harbor where they hooked 26 sharks in five hours. Sharks are excellent fighters and outstanding when cooked over a hot bed of charcoal.

ATLANTIC COAST OYSTER -- Captain Otis Asal on the Buccaneer reports outstanding tuna catches at the 26 Mile Hill and the deeper waters just east of the lump. These are mostly yellowfin, which tip the scales at 60 pounds. Good catches of king mackerel, dolphin and even a few wahoo are also being made. VIRGINIA BEACH -- Captain Peter Bregant with Fish Virginia has been loading up on tuna, wahoo, king mackerel, spanish mackerel and an occasional dolphin. Bregant says the fishing and the weather have been outstanding here for the past several weeks. NORFOLK -- Captain John Cobb with Screaming Eagle Charters reports the sea bass and tog plentiful offshore at the wrecks and a bit farther out, good concentrations of tuna, king mackerel, dolphin and a few marlin. Inshore, the spanish mackerel, croaker and flounder dominate. WACHAPREAGUE -- During the two-day marlin tournament a few weeks ago, 11 white marlin and two blue were caught and released. Since then only a few billfish have been hooked but several have been sighted by tuna fishermen working the waters near the 26 Mile Hill. However, good catches of dolphin, king mackerel and wahoo are still being made. The larger tuna seem to have migrated farther offshore where they're only accessible to the larger charter boats. Inshore, flounder fishing is a bit slower with far more smaller fish being caught than keepers. CHINCOTEAGUE -- Bill Robbins at R&R Boat Rental reports flounder action fair to good. Sea trout fishing has been fairly good in some of the deeper holes and loads of big sharks are now being taken near the inlet and Tom's Cove. OCEAN CITY -- Offshore wreck fishing has been excellent for anglers dunking bottom-fished baits for sea bass and ling. Both species seem to be abundant this year and these fish are running up to 2 or more pounds. The blues are farther out near the 20-fathom curve and so are the tuna. The trick is to keep the boat running above 8 knots or all your expensive tuna baits will be ripped apart by the blues. DELAWARE BAY -- The headboats running out of Bowers Beach have been hooking fair catches of flounder while fishing the lumps below Brandywine Light. These fish range up to 3 pounds with an average of about a pound. Squid strips drifted along the bottom have produced the better catches. DELAWARE COAST -- Bill Hamilton at B&R Tackle in South Bethany Beach reports surf fishing has improved over the past few days. The catches now consist of 3- to 5-pound blues, spike sea trout, flounder and kingfish. At Indian River Inlet good catches of larger blues are now being made by jetty fishermen casting bucktails and spoons during the high and outgoing tides. Just in front of the old Coast Guard Station, anglers are hooking good catches of larger flounder, some tipping the scales at nearly 4 pounds. Offshore, the tuna and marlin fishing has really picked up and small dolphin are now being caught near Delaware Light Ship. CAPE HATTERAS -- Captain Tim Johnson, formally a charter captain on the Chesapeake, reports billfish and dolphin action here has been fantastic. Johnson reports that Al Watkins fishing aboard the Chivas Regal hooked a monstrous blue marlin nearly 13 feet long. After fighting the fish for several hours, Watkins was ready to give up and passed the rod to Anthony Thorton, a passenger on Johnson's boat. Finally, after five hours and 20 minutes, the fish was landed. The blue marlin weighed 390 pounds and according to Johnson, was a bit on the skinny side. Inshore, pier fishermen are hooking lots of spanish mackerel, sheepshead and pompano. The best action has been near Cape Point.