Riverkeeper Report: Much trash, good fishing on Blackwater

Published 9:14 am Friday, June 17, 2011

by Jeff Turner

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 13th through the 15th on the Blackwater below Burdette.

The water was low at 2.10 on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge and terribly nasty/stagnant. Trash was also bad, and, as usual, nearly all of it originated from where people have been fishing from shore.

The good news was that the fishing was actually very good. I caught so many largemouth I lost count, but I’m guessing about 25 with the largest right at 5 pounds. All were caught on either a A.C. Shiner or a Bagley Tailspinner Bang-O-Lure. I also caught a huge gar that was 42 inches long and weight close to 9 pounds. I caught 4 blackfish also – one on the Ac Shiner and three on cut bream under a big bobber.

At 2.10 the river is too low to put in at the Steel Bridge and make it to Burdette in anything larger than the smallest jon-boat. I had to get out twice and drag across sandbars. I had actually tried to go upriver from the Steel Bridge, but I only got about a half mile before a tangle of trees stopped me. Sure would be nice if the Army Corps of Engineers would fix that!

We saw a big Osprey on this trip. I believe it is the first one I have ever seen this far upriver. In the past few years it has gotten pretty normal to see them on the lower river. I never saw any years ago anywhere on the river, so I would have to say they are eventually going to populate the entire river — or repopulate it, I guess I should say.

Even with the water so low I really had a hard time finding that perfect sand bar to camp on. They were either too grassy or too steep. The one I settled on was a compromise between the two. The bad thing was that the sun got on the tent early and would run me out both mornings at like 7a.m. Hey, after a hard day of riverkeeping, I like to sleep at least till 8!

This campsite had another flaw. There was mostly only half-rotten cypress sticks to burn in the campfire. I did not have to worry about bugs because there was so much smoke from my cypress smudge fire that the bugs could not see me.

On the second night Moonpie and I were sitting around the fire choking and crying when Moonpie said, “Man, I hope the meat-eater critters around here don’t like smoked meat ’cause you and I have been well cured now for two nights in a row.” I don’t think you have nothin’ to worry about, I replied. I don’t think there is anything that could stomach either one of us with the plethora of aromas we exude after three days out here on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.