Riverkeeper Report: Stormy & steamy on the Blackwater

Published 12:37 pm Thursday, August 8, 2013

A rainbow follows Saturday's storm from under the 58 Business bridge on the Blackwater River. -- Jeff Turner | Tidewater News

A rainbow follows Saturday’s storm from under the 58 Business bridge on the Blackwater River. — Jeff Turner | Tidewater News

Spirit Of Moonpie and I spent the 2nd through the 4th on the Blackwater below and above Franklin. Boy, was it ever humid!

The first night it was so hot that the sleeping bag I laid on top of stuck to me. When I got up the next morning and got out of the tent, it was glued to my back and Moonpie was in it like a little papoose!

There was a lot of trash on the river this weekend from all those downpours, so I spent a lot of my time picking that up. Some other water quality issues had manifested since my last trip out. After an absolutely frog strangler of a rain Saturday, I could not believe the oil slick that washed into the river off of the 58 Business bridge. I know this because I was hiding under it during the storm. I guess it had just accumulated engine oil, transmission fluid and every other kind of petroleum-based fluid from motor vehicles that build up on the road. I used an entire bottle of De-Oil It on the slick and wiped a lot of it out.

Another issue was there was a heavy amount of duckweed floating about. Duckweed is an aquatic plant that shows up when nutrient levels are high in the river. Two big contributors in the Blackwater’s case of nutrient overabundance come from the Franklin sewage treatment plant and the cows in the river from the Pretlow Farm. The duckweed is actually good for the river as it draws those nutrients out of the water. Duckweed is also an important food source for waterfowl. The only problem with it is it can get so thick that it cuts off photosynthesis causing other aquatic plants to die. When that happens the decay process uses up oxygen and can cause fish kills.

Speaking of fish, I caught right many this trip. I actually did pretty good on rod and reel for catfish. I caught four blues with one monster going 18 pounds. Cut brim in the swiftest water I could find did the trick. I also caught a couple of yellow cats, a blackfish and a bunch of small bream on the flyrod. I also got into the bass pretty good on the 3rd. Using a topwater lure, I caught seven, but they were all 2 pounds and under. Still, it was a lot of fun.

What was not fun was the terrible lightning storm Saturday afternoon. I was under the bridge for that event and was still pretty scared. I got really worried when a couple in a boat did not come back downriver to get out that terrible lightning conflagration. They had been under the bridge with me the first go round of storms, then left and went upriver. So when they did not come back, I was pretty worried. Being out and exposed in something like that in a boat is a memory one never forgets, and I have been in plenty.

They finally emerged from the skinny upper parts of the river wet, but at least not fried. I have one of those fancy phones that has radar on it and a thing on Weatherbug called Spark Alert that tells you how close the lightning is. It’s really great. Really though, all you need is eyes and ears. When you see lightning or hear thunder, please do the safe thing and find a bridge/shelter or just get out of the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.