If you want to catch bluefish, if you want to lambaste them and paste them and tear them up, if you want to come home with blood on your trousers and scales on your ankles and sore spots in your belly where the butt of your fishing rod has been buried half the day, this is the place to be.
This is the place where the Potomac River ends the immense voyage it started in the windswept Dolly Sods of West Virginia.It's where the currents of the Potomac meet the tides of the Chesapeake and where, practically all summer long, fishing for bluefish is a guaranteed freakout.
Capt. Charley Nicholson chose this place to come when he started carrying fishing parties for a living seven years ago. He selected a time when bluefish were beginning an incredible population surge that has not ended yet.
Thousands and thousands of thrashing blues have come over the side of his bay-built workboat, Antonia.
So many thousands that one feels compelled to ask, "Do you ever worry about the morality of killing all these fish? Are you ever afraid that this kind of fishing will wipe the bluefish population out?"
Nicholson, a soft-spoken, pleasant fellow, answers, "That's something I've never really thought about. To me they're like flies. Seems like the more you kill, the more there are."
Nicholson keeps his boat at Clayton's Marina, a tidy place about five miles up river from the mouth of the potomac. He likes to leave the dock about 7 a.m., though time seems to make very little difference when the bluefish blitz is on, which includes most of the summer.
This time of year the marauding blues are concentrated on the western side of the bay's main ship channel, a mile or two west of Buoy 50 in water about 42 feet deep.
As summer wears on, the blues will move east, across the channel and into increasingly shallower waters in the area known as the Middle Grounds.
For now they are close to the Ridge and Point Lookout fishing fleets. The run from Clayton's is about an hour, stretched some last weekend by a long wait at the bait stop.
The blues follow the migration of alewives; small bait fish at the bottom rung of the bay's marine ladder. Alewives flood the lower Bay this time of year, drawn in from their winter homes at sea. The blues, as well as large numbers of sea trout, are close behind, gnashing at the tails of the oily bait fish.
Nicholson stopped his boat at the very tip of Point Lookout. A waterman maintains an impounding net there to supply alewives to the fishing boats heading out.
On Saturday there was a queue waiting for bait, and Nicholson had to hold Antonia in line while the waterman dipped a new skiff-load of alewives before he could get his three bushels.
By the time he reached the fishing grounds it looked like Mariel Bay in the middle of the Chesapeake -- a floating city etched against a hazy sky.
He anchored south of the main fleet, hooked up a meat grinder and began grinding alewives and tossing the resulting chum over the side.
"Here fishy, fishy, fishy," he chanted.
The six anglers hooked cut baits on their lines and tossed them into the oily chum slick.
"ZZZZzzzzzzzz" went the reel on Lew Thatcher's rod. "ZZZZzzzzzzzz" went his wife Barbara's.
It sounded like the invasion of killer bees, with fisherpeople dancing around the boat trying to keep four- to six-pound bluefish on screeching lines. aThey were all using light tackle, which made it doubly a zoo.
So it went, all day long until shortly after 3 p.m. when Nicholson mercifully ground the last of the chum. Bluefish crammed both his giant coolers to the brim and there were leftovers in a trash can. Three big trout had committed suicide as well.
Before pulling anchor, Nicholson mounted a long cleaning board across the stern and the anglers took turns, three at a time, slicing up the day's catch amid the blood and the beer.
Nicholson, relaxing at the helm, admitted that he had "managed the harvest," as the fish and game people like to say.
"I figure about 100 bluefish is all six people ought to want. If we start catching them real fast I might speed up the chumming a little, to get it over with quicker. If it's slow, I could have stretched out the chum for another two or three hours.
"I try to work it so the chum runs out when the coolers are full. That ought to be enough for anybody."
More than enough.
Back at the dock the party of six divvied up the catch and found they hadn't enough room to carry everything home, even though every fish had been fileted.
They scattered along the dock.
"Want some bluefish filets?" they asked people.
"Heck no," people said back. "You want some of ours?"
"The year of the bluefish," as they call it in the current issue of Outdoor Life, continues through the summer around Point Lookout. There are plenty of places to charter fishing boats, most notably Scheible's Fishing Center in Ridge where there are a number of charter boats and the all-day headboat Bay King.
Nicholson is fairly well booked but has a few open dates and can recommend other skippers and there is a headboat now running out of Point Lookout State Park, taking half-day bluefish trips at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. every day.