Riverkeeper report: Bearing witness

Published 12:40 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bears scratched and gnawed on this tree branch along the Nottoway River. I noticed it on my most recent trip, March 7-10. -- SUBMITTED

Bears scratched and gnawed on this tree branch along the Nottoway River. I noticed it on my most recent trip, March 7-10. — SUBMITTED

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 7th through the 10th, yes four days on the Blackwater below Franklin.

The river was normal and 46 degrees, air temps ranged from 44 to 75. Trash on this trip was, well let’s just say there was plenty to be had.

I easily picked up two large VDOT bags full.

I was very fortunate this trip to have Franklin City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Mr. Frank Rabil come out on the boat and take a look around. I showed him problems like the city stormwater canal that spews all that trash into the river, the junk in the swamp behind public Works and the old city dump that has old and new trash falling into the river.

Mr. Rabil is a river advocate and sympathetic to the serious nature of the problems he saw that day. It was nice having him on the river that day.

The fishing on this trip was a little better than last trip. I caught two nice stripers, several white and yellow perch and 4 largemouth all jigging a blade bait.

I hung something that was so big I never turned it. Moonpie was distracting me on the motor doing weird cheerleading moves and singing “Fight the Good Fight”.

Trying to work past that scene, I fought the monster for 15 minutes chasing it around and around to get line back on the reel.

It would strip 50 yards at a time actually burning or wearing the coating off of my braided line…and then it was gone.

My guess it was a big blue cat or carp. I do not mind loosing a fish, but I just really hate it when one gets off the line before I can identify it.

I blamed Moonpie for causing me to loose the fish by messing up my concentration. One of the missions on this trip was to check on the Cherry grove eagles.

Last year I did not see them and was worried that after like 13 years of tracking them, they were gone.

I was VERY happy to see a big white head poking out of that nest.

I really do not know if it is the same eagles or a new pair has taken over the nest.

I’m just glad there are eagles on that end of the river still. Well, last trip I saw something that ran a chill up my spine.

I was hauling equipment back to the boat from base camp when I noticed a tree (in camp) was oddly torn up. The leaning tree had a section of it essentially missing.

The chunks of wood from the tree were in a debris field that spanned 4 or 5 ft from the tree. Looking closely I saw what was undeniably claw marks…large claw marks.

Then on this trip at both clay banks along the river I saw…yes, more claw marks, LARGE claw marks. So Moonpie and I determined that we were bearing witness to what must be an increase in bear activity on the Blackwater below Franklin.

I was perfectly happy with the way things were, bears pretty much staying in the dismal swamp, (and not at my camps) but it looks like and according to VDGIF, the bear population in this area is expanding.

Too, bad for some people because I’m told bears really like a tasty Moonpie that can often be found 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.