Riverkeeper report: Got rice?

Published 9:08 am Friday, July 24, 2015

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 16th through the 18th on the Nottoway below Delaware. The water was high, fast and 80 degrees. Air temps ranged from 68 to 88 degrees. It was very pleasant for mid-July. Trash on this patrol was remarkably heavy, but we had just recently experienced some unusually high water so I imagine for the most part that is the reason.

I did not see any other water quality issues, though I heard from Conservation Police Officer Daniels that up on the other side of Route 40 there had been a fish kill. I’m guessing that was from low-dissolved oxygen also from the recent high water.

The fishing on this trip was not great. I only caught one blue cat the first night. I even took frozen Catawba worms with me on this trip, but only had a few nibbles on those. I did pretty good I guess casting for bream, but only caught one small bass casting for them. I really did not fish that much for bass, maybe two hours the whole trip, so I really don’t know how well they were biting. I’m still trying to get in touch with the Nottoway Pirates. If anybody has contact information for them, please email me or call me 562-5173.

Now for the nice rice story. Some friends of mine met me on the river the first day. They were interested in searching for wild rice. I did not even know we had such a thing here, so I was game. I did not know what I was looking for really so I mostly just drove the boat. Well y’all (I did it, Ash) might not believe this, but there is right much of it on the Nottoway.

My friends had hopes of harvesting some to take home and eat, and Moonpie was all in for that also.

However, it seemed we were just a little late and most all the rice had already dropped. It seems we have two species here, Zizania aquatica, which is the long grain type, and Zizaniopsis miliacea, which is a millet type. Some other common names are Indian Rice, water millet and southern wild rice.

Several Native American cultures, such as the Ojibwa, consider wild rice to be a sacred component in their culture. The rice is harvested with a canoe: one person vans (or “knocks”) rice into the canoe with two small poles (“knockers” or “flails”) while the other paddles slowly or uses a push pole.

The millet type is what we found on this quest for rice. There were some fairly large stands of it, but we only managed to find a few grains to look at. It would take a whole lotta this stuff to get a bowl full, I’ll tell you that.

So next year around July, Moonpie and I will take our chopsticks and rice bowls with us on our cosmic quest for the Indian Rice on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.

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