The Riverkeeper Report

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2008

SEDLEY—Moonpie, Freezing Deer and I spent the 24th through the 26th on the Blackwater below Franklin.

The water was low, stagnant and 84 degrees.

The dissolved oxygen (DO) was 2.30 parts per million (ppm) at the surface and at 12 feet, it was .99 ppm.

I have never seen readings that low in the river. According to what I have read, most fish will die when DO levels fall below 2 ppm.

Trash was not too bad this trip. Most of what I picked up was around Barrett’s Landing. We did pick up a lot of deer flies this trip, or should I say we got picked!

We got into them so bad at one point that we could kill two at a time. Although, we killed hundreds, they just kept coming by the thousands. I looked at Moonpie during that intense melee and she looked like one of those people that put bees all over themselves and wear them like clothes.

We eventually ventured down river to Cherry Grove to see how the baby eagle was doing. It had been a month since I last saw it. We rounded the bend in the river and saw the mother first. Then a huge black-looking bird took off from a tall pine and started flying back and forth across the river.

It was the baby obviously enjoying its newfound ability to fly. Last time I saw it, the youngster could only hop from limb to limb. But here it was soaring back and forth across the river as if to say, &uot;Yippee, look what I can do.&uot;

Every once in a while, the mother would call to it and the young bird would fly back to perch on a tree within sight of the mother. It was a pretty cool sight to see.

The fishing on this trip was not too bad, considering the low DO levels. We did fairly well casting during the day and catching the standard small bass and bream that will readily hit the little spinners we were using.

What was amazing is how well we did catfishing at night. We fished suspended at 10 feet over 23 feet of water, because of the low DO readings.

What was really wild was that we were catching blue cats and the bait of choice was the fat off of our New York strip steaks we had grilled on the boat for supper! We caught several nice blues and one channel that weighed 4 pounds.

The absolute highlight of the trip was on the second night. It was late and the bite had gotten right slow.

I was talking to Freezing Deer, who I thought was agreeing with everything I was saying at first, when I noticed she was really nodding off.

Suddenly her rod went double and the alarm bells on the rod went to ringing. She sprang up and grabbed the rod out of the holder, and the next thing I heard was &uot;It’s a big-en!&uot; The heavy catfish rod was bent double and I struggled to get the portside lights on to see just what the heck she had latched onto. Then we saw it, a huge torpedo shaped creature passed through the lights—a monster blue cat.

The huge fish would make a run and pull Freezing Deer toward the gate of the boat. I thought a couple of times she was a goner.

It scared Moonpie so bad that at one point she hollered, &uot;Stand back, I got a bead on it.&uot;

I looked around and Moonpie had the shotgun, aiming to blow the huge catfish out of the water. But about then Freezing Deer tightened up on the big Garcia reel’s drag and started puttin’ a hurtin’ on the monster fish.

Finally, with both of them exhausted, she led the big fish into the net.

I had a really hard time getting all that fish into the net and an even harder time picking it up. It was all I could do to get it in the boat. The monster blue was 38 inches long and weighed 25 pounds!

After we got a photo of the fish, we shoved it back overboard and waved goodbye. Moonpie said, &uot;Well I just would not have done that. I would have taken it home and ate it.&uot;

I looked around at the little 12-pound smart mouth and said, &uot;You’d better watch what you say. After all, you are at its home out here, and the next time you go swimming just maybe you’ll be what gets eaten on one of the two rivers we call Blackwater and Nottoway.&uot;