Learning what river bounty shouldn’t be eaten

Published 7:51 am Friday, January 21, 2011

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 15th through the 17th on the Blackwater above Joyner’s Bridge.

The water was 6.20 on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge in Burdette, 34 degrees and clear. Air temps ranged from 29 to 45 degrees.

Trash was practically non-existent and only a small amount was picked up from the boat landing where someone had a campfire beside the river. The campfire people had obviously used a large amount of kerosene, or something like it, as the whole sandy beach smelled like a fuel depot.

I’m sure plenty went into the river also.

Fishing on this trip was pretty bad. With water temps still in the low 30s, fish metabolism is about as slow as it gets. I caught a sucker and about 10 bowfin and that was it.

I talked to a guy that had caught a few small largemouth and another that had a few yellow perch. But nobody was catching fish fast. Ice was a problem again this trip. I do not believe I have ever seen the coves and sleuths frozen over for this long.

I guess the fish like it though as it gives them a respite from fishing pressure. So I was catching these bowfin and throwing them back because they are not very yummy in my opinion, when I remembered seeing an article on bowfin caviar.

Well I decided to try it, and luckily for me, the next one I caught was a large female. I got to work and harvested the really gross looking eggs from this fish.

Moonpie did not think the black sacks looked very appetizing either and said … well I really can’t tell you here what she said, so let’s just leave it at gross.

So when I got home the next day, Freezing Deer and I prepared the brine and I started trying to separate the eggs from the sack, which I did not do very well and my yield was small.

Then with that complete, we placed the eggs in the salt solution for 30 minutes. The directions for homemade caviar did not seem all that complicated, and I read a lot of articles online about how tasty these little black eggs are.

On Amazon, 4 ounces sells for $32, so the stuff is not cheap. After 30 minutes, I pulled out our homemade fancy snack.

Now, to be honest. I have never eaten caviar of any type. I’ve eaten plenty of herring, shad and other types of fish roe fried and like that just dandy. Freezing Deer and I, standing side by side at the sink, each got a teaspoon and gathered up a small portion of the delicate little eggs, and on the count of three, we took the plunge.

Well we almost knocked each other out going for the sink at the same time. We spit and gagged for five minutes, and then both ate about five pieces of peppermint candy trying to kill that taste.

That was about the foulest thing I have ever put in my mouth! Salty, musty yuk, is about the only way I can describe it. I guess I’m going to have to buy some regular caviar now to see if that is what it tastes like. If it does, then I do not know how or why people are so crazy about the stuff.

Actually, this tasted a lot like the river mussels we tried one time — steamed in a beer can. Well I guess some things are just not suppose to be eaten from 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. Visit the website for Turner at www.blackwaternottoway.com.