Mitch Rosenfeld is the sort of fellow who almost always says yes to a fishing trip, which makes him a rare and treasured bird.
"You can call him at 9 at night to go fishing the next day and all he says is, 'What time do you want to meet?' " said Bill Brener, a mutual acquaintance.
Rosenfeld, a tall, rumpled, cheerful ex-newspaperman who has been administrative aide to a congressman for 16 years, doesn't care how bad the odds are. "Last year I didn't catch a single bluefish until the end of June," he said. His response to one of the worst springs in memory on the Chesapeake? "I fished harder."
Rosenfeld's philosophy, and it's a good one, is that you're not likely to get the great days -- when the fish are thick, the sun is shining and the winds are calm -- unless you suffer the bad ones. "Look at it this way," he said Thursday as we banged and bumped around mid-Bay in his 17-foot boat, bucking three- and four-foot waves and winds up to 20 knots. "In September, when we're bailing blues, we'll look back on this and say, 'Remember the day in May when we fished eight hours in a gale for one bluefish?' "
I'd called Rosenfeld the evening before with the information that a few big blues had been captured south of Chesapeake Beach by trollers participating in a tournament the previous weekend. He already knew, having fished on Sunday out of nearby Breezy Point.
"What time do you want to meet?" he asked.
We agreed on 6:30 a.m. at Tyler's Tackle Shop, which overlooks the Bay at Chesapeake Beach. He was on time, bearing the happy news that marine weather was predicting a perfect, sunny day with 10 knots of breeze or less. This was amusing to hear, since anyone could see it already was blowing a hard 15 from the southeast, and building.
Not to worry. We were going, said Rosenfeld, and before long we were ramming into the whitecaps in his little, square-nosed boat, which shuddered and shook off sheets of spray.
Our destination was the mouth of Parker's Creek, a shallow, unnavigable tributary nestled between the Calvert Cliffs. Calvin Tyler at the tackle shop volunteered the information that most blues caught over the weekend were off Parker's in about 35 feet of water.
Rosenfeld set out three lines, two monofilament with light sinkers and one wire line with 16 ounces of lead to go deep. No other fishing boats were in sight.
At 8:14, the high-line -- the monofilament carrying only two ounces of lead -- went down and line peeled off in noisy bursts.
I grabbed the rod and quickly appreciated how well Rosenfeld's boat was set up. After 16 years of refining his trolling operation, he has a place for everything and a system for getting it there. While I pumped and reeled he took in the other monofilament line so as not to foul it, but left the wire line in the water. "Sometimes they come in twos," he said, "and I'd hate to miss one."
The bluefish jumped 100 yards behind the boat. It was a nice one.
Rosenfeld steered while I fought the fish, but our roles would reverse, he said, when the blue was 30 feet back. At that point I was to back up to the wheel and steer while he hand-over-handed the leader the final 10 yards and gaffed the fish.
It all went perfectly until the gaffing, when the blue pulled the gaff out of his hand. Rosenfeld was left holding the fish by the metal lure it had bitten, and did the only sensible thing, landing the toothsome blue by hand.
"Boy!" I said, "a 14-pounder."
"Well," said Rosenfeld, "it's a nice fish, but I'd say more like 11 1/2 or 12 pounds."
He was right, and even had a little portable scale on board to prove it.
Bluefishing in May is chancy, but it gets better every day. Some charter boats are catching 10 or more blues on good days, and a few sea trout have been boated.
The beauty of May is that it affords a shot at the biggest blues to visit the Chesapeake all year. This month the choppers, on their way north to New England from the wintering grounds off the Carolinas, will average 10 to 12 pounds.
They should be followed in June by six- to eight-pounders, though these fish barely appeared last year. By late summer the average blue in the Bay will be in the two- to four-pound range, and in the fall hordes of one-pound and smaller "snapper" blues arrive.
So, what time do you want to meet?