Riverkeeper report: Adopt a catfish, save a bass
Published 11:03 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Spirit of Moonpie and I made our first three-day land-based patrol of the fall on the Nottoway the 11th through the 13th below Round Gut. The water was high at 8 feet at the Sebrell gauge, fast and 65 degrees. Air temps ranged from 54 to 80. It was very nice except for the ‘skeeters during the day. Trash on this trip was not too bad, except for at Round Gut, where it appears someone that lives right there is throwing household trash onto that property. I also found a hoop net at the landing that had something dead in it like a snake or eel. It was actually made from two Hula-Hoops!
The fishing on this trip was great for catfish, poor for everything else. I had a devil of a time catching bait, but finally started catching bream on the fly rod, believe it or not. It was the only way I could catch enough bait. I caught a lot of catfish, not sure how many but enough so I spent most of the second day cleaning fish. The two biggest were a 22- and a monster 28-pound blue cat. That 28-pounder was 38 inches long, which is ‘bout all I could do to get it in the boat. It was also pretty hard to fillet wrangling all that fish around. I don’t know how they clean those 70- or 90-pound blues out of the James River. This catfish was so big it puked (luckily outside the boat) a foot-and-a-half long something.
I think it was a channel catfish, but could not be sure. Its mouth was so big a gallon antifreeze jug could fit in it, and I know this because that is what I caught it on. So I have been told by some folks that work for VDGIF that these cats are really putting a hurting on other species in the river. When they get 15 pounds and up, they can consume larger and larger prey and then start growing at an amazing rate. Heck, since they have been in the river in the past five years I have already seen the yellow cats ‘bout disappear, and I rarely catch a channel catfish now. I am told that even though they are here to stay, everyone I catch should be taken out of the river.
Since I just do not want to throw them on shore, and I have all the catfish fillets I can eat in the next year, I would be willing to give away this abundant food source. So what I need is some phone numbers of folks that want UNCLEANED catfish. I ain’t filleting them for you! The deal will be that when I get a bunch from a morning haul, I will call a number. If you want the fish you must come get them immediately; if you cannot, I call the next number. I will meet whoever comes to get the fish at the nearest access point to the river. I will tell that person if they need to bring a 5-gallon bucket, or a washtub.
If you are interested, email me your contact number. Maybe together we can help folks save a little food money and save a few species of fish from being entirely gobbled up on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.
JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.