Icy trip on Blackwater River yielded few fish

Published 7:59 am Friday, January 7, 2011

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 3rd through the 5th on the Blackwater below the Steel Bridge.

Jeff Turner | Tidewater news An otter recently caught this monster, 2-pound shellcracker on the Blackwater River, got it on the ice sheet and ate just its tail.

The water was a little cloudy, fast, 34 degrees and 7 foot on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge located in Burdette. Air temps ranged from 21 to 45 degrees.

I saw no water quality issues, but picked up a half a bag of trash. I also spent quite a bit of time and wear-and-tear on the Riverkeeper boat and motor, breaking up part of a logjam at the Burdette Bridge.

The fishing on this trip was poor. I caught a speckle, a bass, a nice chain pickerel and about five blackfish.

I hung a giant carp, which I fought for a solid 15 minutes. I chased that fish all over Stringwood Curve. I’d get most of my line back on the reel, then it would take off again sometimes pulling 50 feet out at a time. It was a tough fight on ultra-light tackle.

Alas though, after all that, I finally got the fish to the boat and reached for the net. It was hung of course, and that was when the fish turned and was gone. But at least I got to see it.

I hate fighting something for that long, and then don’t even get to see what it was. It looked to be 20 or 25 pounds. I would have thrown it back anyway, but it would have been nice to have weighed it and got a picture.

I spent most of the first day working on that logjam and breaking ice in Jacobs Cove so I could get in there. Some of that ice was still 3 inches thick.

The Riverkeeper boat has ice runners on it, and where the ice was over 3 inches, I could drive the boat onto the ice and completely out of the water.

Evidently others knew the ice was plenty thick as I found where an otter had caught a monster 2-pound shellcracker, got on the ice sheet and eaten just its tail (see photo). Obviously the river otters are not starving if they can be that wasteful.

It was cold out there, especially the first night when it hit 21. In fact, it was so cold I had something happen I have never had happen before.

I was target shooting at a couple of cans at the campsite the first night. I shot and shot and shot and was not hitting anything. I even started aiming ‘cause normally I like to practice quick shooting, and I’m pretty good, but this night no cans were falling.

So after emptying two different pistols, I got up and walked over to the cans that I had sitting on a board. I looked at the cans, and they both had holes in them. Puzzled I went to pick one up, and it was frozen to the board!

These were cans I had pulled out of the river earlier, and when I placed them on that board, they were wet. So by the time I started shooting that night, they had froze to the board.

Moonpie was sitting back up range and was ‘bout laughing herself silly. She said, “I knew the whole time the cans had frozen to the board, who wouldn’t as cold as it is? I just wanted to see how long it would take your feeble mind and how many bullets you would waste before you figured it out.”

“Thanks,” I said; just remember old girl, that what goes around, comes around.

Later that night, when I prepared to turn in, I noticed Moonpie was still asleep under the pine tree where it was quite damp earlier that day from snow melt. She had lain there way longer than the time it had taken those cans to stick to that board.

A sinister grin spread across my face. Sure enough, with all the commotion I made getting in the tent, Moonpie woke up. Suddenly the woods lit up with her a hollerin’, help, help something’s got me.

I peeped out of the tent to see Moonpie covered in frozen pine tree needles. She looked like a porcupine!

“Don’t get too close to the fire,” I hollered in between her primal monkey like screams, and oh yea, I knew that was going to happen. Finally, it was my turn to have a good laugh on one of 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, www.blackwaternottoway.com.