Riverkeeper Report: Great time of year to be on the river

Published 12:03 pm Friday, April 6, 2012

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 29th through the 31st on the Nottoway below Hercules.
The water was 69 degrees fast, colored and high at 12 ft. on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Sebrell. Air temps ranged from 47 to 75 degrees. Trash was heavier than normal, which is usually the case when the water is high. High water always washes stuff out of the swamps and into the river.
I saw no other water-quality issues other than a lot of woody debris in the river. High water washes into the cut-overs along the river and floats out logs and butt ends, etc. I had a fellow tell me he hit one of those logs this past week and damaged his outboard. So be careful when the water is high like that, and if you have someone in the boat with you make sure they understand they are the lookout for stuff like that.
The fishing on this trip was great if shad is the name of your game. I caught about 60 fish, which included some herring also. I also caught a few white perch. It appears herring numbers are getting stronger, at least this year anyway. I’m hoping I can convince the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to soon allow herring to be taken on rod and reel again. A creel limit of 10 per day, as it is with the shad now, would be in order. This would also make it a lot easier for fishermen and the Conservation Police Officers to determine what species fishermen are keeping.
Big herring and small hickory shad are often pretty hard to distinguish from each other. Right now it is illegal to be in possession of herring. However, the critters up and down the river are having a bountiful time right now. This is the time of year they fatten up.

This owl was happy even at midday.

I saw an eagle in the narrows on the second day, and the Great Blue Heron are so plentiful you see one everywhere you look. I watched an otter working the narrows also. I even got some great footage of a barred owl that was so happy it was hootin’ and a hollerin’ in the middle of the day. I was actually talking to Freezing Deer on the phone when it started calling, and the owl was so loud she could easily hear it through the phone. Moonpie slept right through it!
Snakes. Yep, I know y’all like to hear about those. Well, they are mating right now on the river. You can always see them easily this time of year because when they do their thing they get together in what we call “snake balls.” Several snakes just tangle all up together and they get it done. Makes for some great photo opportunities, as since they are, uhh, occupied, they don’t pay much attention to what is going on around them.
So, yep, great time to be on the river: The fish are biting and the wildlife is everywhere. It is a fantastic opportunity to teach a child to fish. All you need is some worms and a bottom rig. So load up the boat and get the family out of the house and go enjoy the splendor of the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.