Riverkeeper report: A journey down the river with a Southampton student

Published 9:49 am Friday, March 23, 2012

A snake lies in some brush along the Nottoway River. -- Submitted | Denney Turner

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 18th through the 20th on the Nottoway below Courtland.

The water was clear, fast, 63 degrees and 7.15 on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge in Sebrell. Air temps ranged from 52 degrees to 78 degrees.

I saw no water quality issues and only picked up a half a bag of trash.

The fishing on this trip was amazing. It has been many a year since I have caught so many shad. I reckon I caught over 100 shad the whole trip. We caught right many herring also.

I got my dad to come out the second day for a few hours, and we wore them out. In one run I made eight casts and caught eight fish! It was a lot of fun.

The main mission on this trip was to take Denney Turner (way distant kin), a student from Southampton High, out on the river. Denney is attending the Governor’s School for the Arts studying to be a photojournalist.

She wrote me saying, “I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles in the paper. I care for the environment and appreciate what you do by keeping our rivers safe and clean.

My dream is to one day be able to use my photographs to express concerns and awareness for the environment as you do with your articles. For this particular assignment, I was hoping to complete a photo-essay of you and your job and what you do on a daily basis to help keep the rivers clean in our area.”

That Monday morning, I met Denney at the boat ramp where I was talking to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Officer Sgt. Tim Worrell.

Worrell told us his son had also attended the Governor’s School. So that was pretty awesome they got to meet before we ventured out on the river.

We had a nice day, however the wildlife was not cooperating all that well. I was really hoping Denney was going to get some good pictures of the eagles at the nesting site above Courtland.

However as soon as we got there, one of the eagles flew away from the nest, and we never saw it again. We could not see the other parent in the nest sitting on the eggs because the nest is so deep.

We did get some snake pictures and a few other things, but the wildlife was kind of sparse that day.

Anyway we had a great trip, and it was an honor for me to take this young woman, who has a genuine interest in our environment, out on the river.

The weather on this trip ended up being nice. It was a little hot for my liking, but not too bad at night. The one thing that was bad was the skeeters. They were terrible.

In fact they were so terrible that the last morning we were there, I awoke (at the crack of dawn) to Moonpie hollerin’ and a yelling for me to hurry up and get up.

“Why,” I grumbled from the depths of my yummy comfortable sleeping bag.

“You got to see this,” she exclaimed. “There is like a flock of red birds sitting everywhere here at the campsite, like a Cardinal convention or something.”

Well not believing that, I peeked out of my tent and was horrified at what I saw.

“Those ain’t cardinals you big dummy,” I exclaimed. “They is skeeters that are so full of your and my blood they can’t fly away.”

And with that, I slithered back into the depths of my sleeping bag, itchin’ and scratchin’ and hoping for one more hard freeze on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.

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.