Rooting around in some old stories I wrote about deer hunting years ago, I discovered this October, 1988 story I wrote for The Maine Sportsman. There’s a version of this story in Chris Potholm’s wonderful book, “Tall Tales from the Tall Pines,” published in September by Down East Books. You may think Chris’ amazing tall tale about a blue fishing experience is fictional, but it’s the mostly truth. Here’s how I told it.
He was sitting in the hot tub when his wife Sandy reported, “Bluefish are in the bay in front of the house.”
Grabbing a towel, Chris Potholm of Harpswell dashed outside. Sandy’s sighting was confirmed by the thousands of poagies jamming the shore frantically trying to avoid the big blues. Chris rushed to gather up his fishing pole and launch his boat which is moored right in front of their home on a beautiful peninsula in Harpswell Sound.
Minutes later, still wearing only his towel, he was into the blues. It was early evening and he would have the fishing experience of a lifetime as the sun set and darkness settled over the Sound.
He would also lose a lifetime’s worth of fishing lures. With sixty pound test on his heavy casting rod, wire leader, and surface plugs, Chris drifted as he cast to the blues. They were in a feeding frenzy. Playing each one for all it was worth, Chris had lines snapped off in his hands, lures ripped and torn from the leader, every sort of assault that a powerful fish like the blue can make. He loved every minute of it!
Finally, exhausted, with heavy blues up to fifteen pounds each covering the bottom of his boat, down to hand lining because that was all the equipment he had left, towel wet and soggy, body chilled by the cold damp evening air, so dark he couldn’t see the fish until he got them boatside, Chris knew he’d have to head for home.
It was my very good fortune that, after finishing his time in the hot tub later that night, Chris called to invite me down to try my own luck the next day.
A Bucket of Blues
The inventory was complete: new surface plugs and rappalas, lots of wire leader, lead core line and fifty pound monofilament, trolling rod and reel, cooler with ice. As each came out of the trunk enroute to Chris’ boat, I couldn’t have been more excited. The hot sunny day was perfect, it was two hours yet to high tide, and Chris was certain the blues were still in the Sound.
We motored into a small cove about ten minutes from his house as I rigged up my line. I thought we were going to troll and only brought my trolling rod, mistake number one. A casting rod was what was needed.
I watched as Chris cut the engine, setting us adrift. His first cast had just hit the water about thirty yards in front of the boat when a gigantic blue exploded from the depths and thrashed that lure for all it was worth. What a sight! Chris expertly landed the blue before I had even gotten a lure overboard.
After some extensive practice casts with my trolling rig, I was able to get the lure out about twenty yards, and on this day that would be plenty far enough.
BANG! My lure shot out of the water with a big blue attached! I had played him for several minutes when he exploded straight out of the water, shook himself violently, and returned to the deep, leaving my lure floating on the surface. I stood there stunned, almost out of breath. Wow!
For every blue landed, we probably lost at least two others. Twice they busted my lead core line and took expensive lures with them. One blue shattered Chris’ rod right in his hands, just above the reel. I saw that rod splinter into two dozen pieces, simply amazing. And he still landed that fish!
We fished hard for three hours before the high tide slowed them down. And we had blues on nearly all the time. Sometimes several blues would return to the boat swimming beside the one which was hooked. A couple of blues were particularly memorable.
An inept cast had left my surface lure just ten yards off the stern and I angrily reeled it in. As I began to lift the lure off the water right in front of me, the ocean parted and a massive blue lunged for it.
POW! Water cascaded all over me as the blue returned to the water with my lure firmly in his mouth. He’d risen from directly under the boat. I was startled but recovered in time to play that blue for five minutes until he snapped my line.
Two casts later, out about twenty yards this time, a new surface lure was hit and I began a long but losing battle with another blue. He took the line out another twenty yards and then suddenly blasted up and out of the water, dancing about fifteen feet across the Sound until the lure was shaken loose. I’ll never forget the sight of that blue dancing across the top of the water.
When action slowed at high tide, my cooler was full of eleven blues ranging from six to fifteen pounds. Most were at least ten pounds. I had cleaned them as they were caught and put them immediately on ice. We chummed with the remains. The last four blues were left out for photos back at the house and cleaned afterwards.
As we returned to the dock, Chris’ boat looked like a war zone. My shoulder ached and my feet were wet and numb. I thanked and acknowledged Chris as a superb guide. It had been a day of dreams, hefty fish smashing surface lures, battling and jumping and thrashing, giving no quarter, powerful powerful fish.
Linda broiled some filets for dinner that night, with a little butter and lemon, about three minutes on each side. I never had a better tasting fish, and the freezer is now full of them. Bon appetite, Chris!