Riverkeeper report: Mmm, yummy! Smoked Riverkeeper

Published 12:21 pm Friday, October 16, 2015

Smoke from Route 189 burn lies thick upon the Blackwater. Submitted | Jeff Turner

Smoke from Route 189 burn lies thick upon the Blackwater. Submitted | Jeff Turner

I’m back! Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 7th through the 9th on the Blackwater below Franklin. The water was high, nearly over the pier at 2.45 on the Franklin/258 USGS gauge, fast and 66 degrees. Air temps ranged from 56 to 82 degrees. Trash was fairly heavy as was expected due to the high water.

The fishing was very poor, too much fresh water, or at least that is what my Granddaddy Preacher Wright would have said was the reason the fish had lockjaw.

I caught one bream, and one 19-pound blue cat on a piece of the bream. I casted several thousand times in the two days I fished, and only caught that one bream casting. You know the fishing is bad when you cannot catch bream. I was so worried I would not have any bait, so in desperation (this is way before I caught the bream) I got me a snake and cut that up for bait. That venture turned out to be a lot of stinky, creepy work for nothing. It was a big snake and the whole time I was trying to skin it out the reptile was fighting me and wrapping around my arm and it did not even have a head!

Another odd thing, I would bait up my catfish rods at night with a piece of this very odiferous snake bait with a chunk about an inch square. After 30 minutes or so, I would check the rig to see if I still had bait and the snake lure would be twice the size it was when I started. It really swelled up. I have never seen anything like that before. I had a few nibbles on it, but never caught anything. Now if you think that all that was gross, the second night I put a few pieces of this tube snake delicacy in a Ziplock with my steak marinade (after I had consumed the steak) and soaked the snake in that, which did not cause it to swell up. That bright idea did not work either. So the lesson here is, no more no shoulders for catfish bait.

Y’all like smoked meat? Well then, you would sure have loved me early on day two of my patrol, cause I was smoked. I awoke that morning, I guess about, 3, to the ranting and raving of Moonpie hollerin’ to abandon ship cause the boat was on fire. Sure enough, there was a thick smell of something burning. So I hurriedly put on my glasses and looked out of my tent only to just not be able to comprehend what I was seeing. Instantly, though, I could tell the boat was not on fire, but it did appear that the world was. I could not see 10 feet and it was not all fog because I was choking and having a hard time breathing. I wanted to weigh anchor and get the heck out of Georges Bend, but I could not see a thing and the boats fog lights just reflected back upon us making it even harder to see. My main concern by then was that a forest fire was going to bust over the edge of the embankment, but I could hear no fire. So I decided to get back in the tent and breath though a T-shirt with the hope that morning light would bring some breeze and move the thick acrid smoke out.

It was a long three hours til light and that was no help. At five hours after first realizing I was in trouble, I contacted my dad, who found out that there was a controlled burn going on along Rt. 189 very near where I was on the river.

Still I waited, but the smoke just would not go anywhere. So finally I decided I had breathed enough of that stuff and called Franklin Fire Department to see if they could at least tell me what direction I needed to head. I still only had about 20 freet visibility then, mind you. The fellow from the fire department told me I needed to head north toward Franklin and that they would send some units to get on the Rt. 189 Bridge to assist me. So I weighed anchor and slowly crawled my way out of Georges Bend headed for the bridge a quarter mile away.

Luckily, as soon as I got out of that river bend visibility was vastly improved. I trudged steadily along toward salvation and then sure enough going back and forth on the bridge with lights a blazin’ was the units from Franklin Fire and Rescue. It was a very welcomed sight indeed. After traveling a quarter of a mile further upriver and I could see and breathe much better.

So I want to thank those folks at Franklin Fire and Rescue for being the outstanding public servants that they are. Top notch is what I consider their actions to have been that morning. While I’m thanking people, my dad was a big help in getting me out of this and I want to also thank the guy that helped me on the third day when I was having so much trouble getting the boat out of the river. The fast current and windy conditions were giving me a fit, and this nice fellow came over and got me lined up on the trailer so I could drive the boat on.

So, a very interesting trip indeed, and it’s so great to know I live in a community where people will give you hand when you need it on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

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