Riverkeeper Report: Pristine water, good fishing on Blackwater River recently

Published 9:19 am Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 23rd through the 25th on the Blackwater above the Steele Bridge.

The water was murky, 58 degrees and 4.75 on the USGS gauge at Burdette. I saw no water quality issues and as expected there was hardly any trash. In fact it is one of the most pristine pieces of the river there is.

The reason for that is that there is no shore fishing anywhere and it is very difficult to get there no matter what kind of boat you are in.

The fishing was fantastic. I caught 15 largemouth, three of them pushed 3 pounds. I lost one bigger than that. All were caught on the AC Shiner. Big bream up there also, I mean the nice meaty kind.

This was a strange trip, I was in the really small boat because of the logs, etc., one has to cross to get up there. It was hot in the day, yet the night and water was cold, so I really did not want to get in the river.

On the second day I had to make a choice of going over a really bad log jam. I had looked at it a couple of times the first day but just did not have the motivation to unload all that gear and attempting it. On the second day I did.

I decided to do a bank side crossing in order to keep from having to get in water over my head to do a mid log crossing. I had to remove the motor and all the gear out of the boat. Still the 150-pound boat was a tough lift for me and, no, Moonpie did not help.

The log was situated so that at one point I could walk under the boat. That’s how bad it was plus I reckon I fell down 10 times in that slick mud. I finally accomplished the portage and went onward knowing full well I would have to do it again to get back to base camp. It was worth it though, it is just so beautiful up there and really on the reverse crossing it was not quite as bad. I fell in the mud only five times!

The real interesting/exciting part of the trip happened on the way in the third day. That darn little outboard once again pooped out on me after running great two days. I don’t understand that. Anyway it was 9 a.m. and for the third time I started cranking and yankin’ on that motor to the point of I was about to stroke out and that’s when it happened.

I told Moonpie the heck with it I’d paddle the 2 miles in and with that spun around on the cooler and went right out the side of the boat.

It happened really fast. Now my friends 58 degree water don’t sound all that cold, but going in upside down on a 60 degree morning is quite stunning.

When I went in I grabbed my glasses and by doing so lost the paddle. The current was swift so I had to get that back quickly which I did. Then I found I could not touch bottom so that kept me from getting back in the boat.

All I could do was hold on to the side and try to keep the boat from running over me.

Finally after a LONG 10 minutes I finally hit a log. By then the cold water had started to get to me I guess because even with the log it took me three attempts to get into the boat. On the second failed attempt I was starting to get concerned.

I said a little prayer and told Moonpie to get ahold of my ears, and with one big primal scream I heaved my numb body into the tippy boat.

The two-mile paddle back was pretty strange, I was more like a machine or a horse with blinders on, I just paddled.

I wasn’t even really cold. I guess I could have been in mild shock.

All I can tell you is I was mighty glad to see the boat landing and was very happy to be getting out of 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. website for Turner, www.blackwaternottoway.com.