Fishing on a freezing river is an adventure

Published 6:05 am Friday, December 31, 2010

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 21st through the 23rd on the Blackwater above Joyner’s Bridge.

Ice covers the Blackwater River above Joyner’s Bridge during Riverkeeper Jeff Turner’s recent outing. -- Jeff Turner | Tidewater News

The water was clear, 6.20 on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Burdette and a cold 34 degrees. Air temps ranged from 25 to 40 degrees.

I saw no water quality issues on this trip and picked up about a half a bag of trash. All of it collected downriver from the bridge.

The fishing on this trip was terrible. In fact, I was skunked the first day and just about was the second with only one, 10-inch long channel catfish being caught. I guess the fish were bout frozen.

In fact that catfish was so cold when I reeled it up, that it jumped off the hook and slithered to the back of the boat where it proceeded to curl up with Moonpie in her blanket. Moonpie didn’t wake up right then, and for the next hour, I had to listen to her snoring and the catfish purring. After a while she woke up and promptly chunked the intruder out of the boat.

This was a pretty treacherous trip. Ice was everywhere, and I had to use the anchor to break ice to get on shore at my campsite. Throwing a 12-pound anchor over and over is heart attack fodder for sure.

Then I had to remove the 3-inch thick pieces to keep it from getting under my boots and putting me in the river. It was a horrendous chore. Some of the ice was frozen around weeds and small saplings that would not turn loose of the ice, so that had to be chopped with a machete.

Then there were the big ice sheets floating down the river I had to watch out for. At 40 mph, a 3-inch thick ice sheet could take the lower unit right off an outboard.

All in all though it was a pretty uneventful trip. The first night I did hear a guy trying to coax his deerhound back across the river. For at least three hours, he called and called, driving up and down the road. He got so close to us I even saw his headlamp once as he was in the woods trying to get sight of the dog.

I finally heard the dog sound like it crossed to his side, but then it sounded like the dog could not get to the truck. There was so much ice out there I was afraid the dog might not be able to get to shore.

I did not want to holler or make any noise, as I was afraid the dog would cue on me and come my way. If it would have though, I could have taken the dog by boat to a good place that had access to the road. But I did not really want to interfere, as the guy might not have known my intentions.

Finally though I heard what sounded like a reunion, and all was peaceful on the river again.

I have my cell number on the Riverkeeper truck, so if someone needs to know what I’m seeing out there, just give me a call. I’ll be glad to help if I can.

After all that Moonpie said, “I just don’t get this whole chase the deer thing these dogs do anyway, way too much work it looks like. I like looking at the deer the way we do it, sitting in a big comfortable chair while riding down the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.”

JEFF TURNER is riverkeeper for the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, an environmentally conscious organization that focuses on keeping local waterways healthy. BNRP’s parent organization is The Waterkeeper Alliance. website for Turner,