Riverkeeper rides again

Published 9:21 am Friday, December 6, 2013

Spirit of Moonpie and I are back in the saddle after being down four weeks for a bad back. It was not a pain-free trip, but ‘tweren’t too bad, either. In any event, we stayed the 29th through the 1st on the Nottoway below the Bronco Club. The water was low and 46 degrees. Air temps ranged from 28 to 56 degrees and it was beautiful out there.



I saw only a couple pieces of trash and no water quality issues. It did, however, really stink out there especially the first two days, but it was airborne and not the water.

The fishing on this trip as far as casting was terrible. So bad, in fact, that I could not catch any bait to set limb lines for catfish. I usually do not set limb lines this late in the year, but a friend of mine wanted some catfish, so I figured I would try it.

I managed to snag a channel cat near dark the first day, but it was so late I decided I would just wait and set the lines the next day using parts of that catfish to bait with. So since I did not run lines that night, the next day I went ahead and set the 10 lines I had and baited them using catfish belly and other tasty internal parts of that catfish I caught the day before. I really did not have high hopes of success. After that I went on casting and only caught an itty bitty bass that was going to be bait for that night, but then I caught a nice chain pickerel and so the bass got a reprieve and was turned loose.

I have always had good success baiting with jack belly so that was going to be the plan on the re-bait that evening. Later on that afternoon I returned to the jugs and was stunned to see three moving. I was REALLY stunned when the second one I pulled up ended up being a nearly 12-pound blue cat. ‘Hot dog,’ I thought, ‘I just might get enough catfish for my friend.’ I went ahead and baited up for that night and left for base camp. The next morning I took off to see what I had and instantly started having motor trouble. I finally found that once again ethanol gas had caused the primer bulb to rot and I was not getting gas. Luckily, I keep a backup fuel line. Then I found the motor was not cooling properly.

Anyway, after I got going again I ran into these two fellers fishing. They asked me if I was the one that had those lines out and I said ‘Yup.’ One of the fellers said, ‘You got something on one that is ‘bout to pull the tree down!’ So off we flew to go see, and when I got hold to the jug I could tell it was a big fish. It took a while to get it to the surface, but when I did I freaked out. I have a 30-inch net and this fish was bigger than that! I finally got the behemoth into the net, but could not get it over the side of the boat.

Moonpie quickly jumped behind me and got hold of my bib straps and started pulling me backwards. Finally, we drug the monster over the side even though I thought the net handle was going to break. The blue cat weighed right at 24 pound and was 37 inches long. The fish actually looked thin and I think it should have weighed around 30, but regardless it was a big fish. It was so big my big 9” fillet knife was not long enough. Guess I’m going to need to get a bigger knife. So it ended up being a productive trip and I survived without having to be rescued this time.

I accomplished that by really being conscious about my back, and in fact had to put out the extra effort to do some things differently to keep from bending over and rupturing a disk again. It’s the sad fact of getting old, I guess, that makes us have to modify the simplest of tasks like putting a sleeping bag in a tent or sitting a certain way to split kindling or even clean fish.

But I guess if you want to do something bad enough you’ll figure out a way to do it just like I’m having to do to be able to continue going out on the two rivers I love that we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.