Riverkeeper report: High water equals bad fishing

Published 9:02 am Monday, October 3, 2016

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 24th through the 26th on the Nottoway above the Rt. 258 VDGIF boat ramp. The water was extremely high, nearly covering the ramp pier, fast but clear and 73 degrees. Air temps ranged from 59 to 88 degrees.

I believe this is the highest the water as ever been when I have launched the pontoon boat. Of course all this water was from that deluge of rain we had earlier in the week. The river needed it, and so it got a real good flushing to wash out all that stagnant water. Amazingly, trash was not bad, I was expecting to see a lot more. Fishing, however, was bad, and I expected that, but was not expecting it to be as bad as it turned out to be. I only caught one bream the entire trip, and I fished hard.

A view of the Turf Farm narrows from Riverkeeeper Jeff Turner’s drone. -- Submitted | Jeff Turner

A view of the Turf Farm narrows from Riverkeeeper Jeff Turner’s drone. — Submitted | Jeff Turner

Whenever we have a big influx of freshwater in the river it always shuts down the fish for a few days. It’s kinda like they are in shock from the change in water temp, pH and dissolved oxygen. Plus, they are able to get into the swamps where there is lots of food.

I was really glad we did not have a fish kill, I have seen that happen many times after a big rain event when the rivers flood. That usually happens when so much plant material gets washed out of the swamps then starts decaying and will use up all the oxygen in the water. I saw a couple of dead fish in Sims gut, but luckily I think we escaped (narrowly) having a kill. Anyway, it did not happen and I expect the bite will be fantastic by the time this article is published.

I did not see a lot of wildlife on this trip except for one group of Great Blue Herons. There were 10 flying together as I herded them upriver toward the narrows on the second day. I also saw an immature bald eagle on the first day.

One of the main reasons for going on this patrol with the water so high was that I wanted to try to cut a couple of trees that were navigation hazards out there. One was a dead cypress tree in the narrows that was not really a hazard, but eventually was going to block boat traffic through there. I got it done, but it was very difficult doing it by myself in that screaming fast water up there, not to mention really dangerous.

My saw was not big enough and after getting the tree limbed, I had cut through three quarters of it but it would not break. So I had the brilliant idea to use the mass of the pontoon boat to get the tree wiggling by pushing against it in hopes it would break. Well, in that process the boat got shifted around and I ended up under the nearly sawed-in-half tree and stuck there. That was not a good feeling looking at a half ton of tree poised to smuush me into the bottom of the river. Plus, dummy Moonpie freaked out and abandoned ship by getting out on the sawed log! Fortunately she does weigh very much any more!

Finally, after many tense moments, I got us out from under the deadfall. I then hooked a rope to the top of the tree and by pulling backwards downriver with the boat broke it off all without killing us or damaging the boat. The second tree was an oak off of Monroe Bridge road on the inside of a sharp blind curve.

For years I have worried someone was going to get killed there, so we took care of that also. I did have one big limb that went the wrong way and ended up with one of my fishing rods being broke. I also lost my solar-powered flamingo. I guess that’s on the bottom of the river now and is probably quite an attraction for the aquatic community there.

So a good trip and possibly the last of the year on the pontoon boat. Time to go back to my land base camps for the fall and winter months, something I always look forward to 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.