Riverkeeper report: Productive day marred by loss of rod and reel

Published 2:17 pm Friday, February 3, 2012

Riverkeeper Jeff Turner transports trash he found in the Blackwater River last week. -- Jeff Turner | Tidewater News

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 24th through the 26th on the Blackwater below the Steel Bridge.

The water was 40 degrees and 6.70 on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge in Burdette. Air temps ranged from 31 to 65 degrees.

At first I did not think I was going to find much trash; everything looked remarkably good above the pump station. However while fishing with my dad, who was visiting the first day, I witnessed a plastic bottle tossed in the river at the pump station where work is being done to secure the shoreline.

So we rode down there, and I talked to the site manager who told me it would not happen again. I also called the superintendent of Norfolk Waterworks to let him know about the incident.

Anyway that got me thinking about what I would find downriver from the construction site if the workers have been tossing trash in the river all month. The problem with checking that out is the river down there is not very navigable for a motorboat due to tree jams.

Well on day two the good Lord sent me some help. Remarkably, a friend of mine, expert kayaker Tim somehow managed to find me out there and after telling him my predicament volunteered to venture downriver and see how bad the trash was. That way I would not have to risk damage to the boat unnecessarily.

So he took off, and it was not long before he called saying a huge logjam loaded with trash was downriver.

I powered up and headed that way. When I got there it was truly bad. However, I determined only a small amount was from the Norfolk work crew.

We easily filled up two huge Virginia Department of Transportation trash bags and gathered up two large pieces of waterlogged boat flotation, a big truck bed case thing and a gallon of hydraulic oil that certainly came from the work site.

I had so much in the boat I was afraid it would be too heavy to make it across some of the logs I had to cross to get to that part of the river.

Unfortunately we could not get all the trash because the jam was so broad, but then you never can get it all anyway. Still, we did a respectable cleanup.

The fishing on this trip was good, finally. It was so pretty and warm that first day that I called dad to come meet me so we could try the blackfish. It was a good call. I’m guessing we caught 20 and hung several more. Some were around seven pounds, and all were caught vertical jigging a blade bait, or what we used to call a Silver Buddy.

It was really fun, and my dad’s arm actually got tired the fish were fighting so hard.

As the day was winding down, I guess the fish decided to send in the boss blackfish to even things up. I was only minutes from calling it a day when something took my lure hard.

The next thing I saw was my rod and reel going away from the boat and into the drink. I thought at first I had got hung on the bottom and just dropped the rig, but it did not fall straight down; it went away from the boat.

A large fish had snatched it all away from me. So for an hour the remainder of that day and two hours the next, I dragged the bottom of the cove in the area I lost the rig. I pulled up every tree in that cove, but no rod and reel.

Moonpie said I better be careful next time I fish there as I might be the one who gets caught since now the blackfish have a weapon.

Anyway, it was a nice camping trip, and the weather could not have been better. What truly was nice though was that I got to spend another wonderful day fishing with my dad 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. Contact Turner at his website, www.blackwaternottoway.com.