Caution: Tape On The Water

Published 10:06 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jeff Turner

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 20th through the 22rd on the Blackwater below Franklin. The water was low and 40 degrees. Air temps ranged from 23 to 56. It was really cold, especially with the really crappie wood I had to use for a fire. I have had some nice offers to help me with that, I just got to get some help to go get the wood as I cannot pick up wood off the ground anymore cause of my back. So THANK you Dan F. and Tommy S. for offering to help.

Fishing on this trip was not too great. I caught a couple of nice raccoon perch, so they must be getting ready to do something, but I caught more that were like only 6 inches long. I also caught a nice jack and hung a better one that got off just as I was about to net it, that really made me … unhappy and we will leave it at that. You see, I’m not fishing for sport with them; I’m fishing for food.

It was so cold on this trip (except for the day I left of course) that I did not see much wildlife. A few Great Blue Heron, and some really nice deer upriver from Franklin, but that was ’bout it except for the brash mink I encountered the day I launched. I pulled up to the landing that day and saw something swimming across the river right towards the ramp. It was a mink. I watched it make a beeline right toward u. When it got to the ramp to my amazement it hopped right up on the concrete, took a few steps and promptly did a doo right there on the ramp!

I looked at Moonpie and she said, “Some people just have no sense of decency at all.”

I replied “Well, Moonpie, cut it a break, its an animal.”

Moonpie looked around and said, “Yea, so are we, but we don’t go around dooing on boat ramps DOO we?”

I didn’t reply.

Trash was light on this trip but I saw some water quality issues this time. On the first day the river only from Franklin downriver was covered in what appeared to be sawdust. I mean a lot of it. Looks like sawdust, feels like sawdust. So I grabbed some samples and will have it analyzed and looked at by DEQ. Now you might not think that sawdust would be an issue in the river, but you would be wrong. Depending on the time of year that stuff eventually acts as sediment and could adversely affect bedding fish. There is actually a report from the late 1800’s from the United States Engineering Dept. which ended up being the USACE, that reported at the mouth of the Blackwater there was a bar of sawdust that was causing a navigation hazard there in the river and they had to remove it. Now that was a LOT of sawdust for sure!

I also came across a pile of caution tape on the river 100 yards downriver from the CSX railroad trestle. I could not believe how much of this stuff was in the river and trees. I pulled 100 yards of it out of the river and another 200 yards of it out of the trees. I got most of it, there is still about 100 ft of it onshore maybe somebody more agile than me can go and get. It’s just too dangerous for me to walk up there as hard a time as I have getting around. I made some calls to local officials and nobody knew or could figure where that came from. So I put Moonpie on the case and after awhile between the two of us investigating and some further help from the public we figured out where it came from. In August there was a CSX train derailment in Franklin. That caution tape was deployed then, after the event I guess the tape was taken up, balled up and left on site. In October we had Mathew came through and the river flooded, come up and washed that ball of tape into the river.

Case solved, good job Moonpie who after we successfully pulled all that tape in started singing a Moonpied version of “Smoke On The Water,” changed to “Caution Tape On The Water.”


Anyway we hope everybody has a safe and Merry Christmas from the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway … and a HaPPPY New Year!

JEFF TURNER is the riverkeeper for the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers. Contact him at