Riverkeeper Report: Riverkeeper spots eagles nesting along Nottoway

Published 9:12 am Monday, April 1, 2013

Riverkeeper Jeff Turner caught an eagle flying and its nest on camera during recent trip down the Nottoway River.

Riverkeeper Jeff Turner caught an eagle flying and its nest on camera during recent trip down the Nottoway River.

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 21st through the 23rd on the Nottoway below Courtland.



The water was fast and high at 10 feet on the Franklin U.S. Geological Survey gauge and 47 degrees. Air temps ranged from a nose biting 23 to 42 degrees and it SNOWED nearly all the first day.

Trash was pretty bad. The logjams were full and I could only reach about half of what was there. I picked up one fat bagful and had to leave a giant tire and rim I could not get out of the water.

Maybe during Clean Rivers Day on the 20th next month, one of the teams can get it. Moonpie wanted to get on it and float downriver. I told her that would be fine, but I was wondering how she intended to get back upriver to camp. She told me that would not be an issue as she had special “upriver” floating skills these days.

The fishing on this trip was…okay. I only caught four shad but talked to some crazy guys that were out there in the snow with me and they had done well with the shad at the shad hole. I could not believe there were other people out there on the river in the snow. It’s nice to know there are people who are just as crazy as I am…I think!

There was also a young fellow at the boat landing fishing, though he was smart and was sitting in his car through the blizzard tending his rods. He told me he had caught a walleye. He stated he had released it so I could not verify his claim. A yellow perch looks similar, so….. Back in the 70’s the state released some into the river, but I have only seen one in my entire life and have never caught one.

Anyway I managed to scrap up a hodgepodge of a mess of fish – catching two small largemouth, four speckle, one yellow perch, one shell-cracker, two striped bass and one blackfish. I had to throw the striped bass back because they did not measure up to the 18-inch minimum requirement. That really blows too, because one of them was hooked so deep it died, but I still had to throw it back. What a waste!

I also think that regulation is just plain backwards. Let us keep the small tasty fish and throw back the larger fish that produce the most eggs. That would seem to make the most sense.

I also disagree with the herring moratorium. I understand doing away with dipping, netting etc., but let fishermen keep some they catch on rod and reel. It would make enforcement’s job easier and be better for fishermen. Also if the rule would be that you can keep 10 per day – any combination of shad or herring. Meaning you can keep 10 shad or 10 herring, or a mix.

Sometimes smaller shad look a lot like herring and vice versa and people get tickets by misidentifying the fish. Most folks are not fishery biologist; the state needs to make it easy for people to enjoy catching and keeping a few fish without constant fear of being in violation. Letting us keep the shad/herring combination would help. And look, if the herring species is so bad off a few can’t be taken by rod and reel with a 10 count daily limit, then I dare say the species is doomed anyway.

One of the biggest goals of this patrol was to check on the eagle-nesting site upriver of Courtland. I like to go each spring to document if the eagles are there and nesting. I’m happy to report that they are and I believe the babies have hatched.

I only saw one adult female (I think), and as always was quite a sight to behold. I took a few quick pictures (see attached) and then moved on, as she was flying over and around Moonpie and I and giving us the serious “stink-eye”.

In the coming weeks I will try to update ya’ll on their progress and eventually will know how many eaglets they had this year or at least how many survived. It’s one of my favorite things I do 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. Contact Turner at his website, www.blackwaternottoway.com.