Riverkeeper report: Say whaaat, Mr. Groundhog?

Published 10:10 am Monday, March 20, 2017

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 9th through the 10th on the Blackwater below Franklin. Air temps ranged from 52 to 75 degrees and the water was 53 degrees.

I tried for the shad once again, and once again caught none. Tired of trying for them and stripers, I decided just to go back to regular fishing for the little time I had out there to fish. I caught five bass to 3 pounds. Four of them I caught in one location in six consecutive casts! All caught on a stick bait. That was really fun. I threw all of them back as it will not be long before the bass are on the bed and spawning.

Trash actually was not too bad on this trip; I spent most of the time cleaning trash — plastic bags — out of the trees. This is stuff left over from last October’s flood. While on the subject of trash, I am most happy to report that the City of Franklin has taken care of the trash problem at the old city dump on Pretlow. They have erected a 6-foot chain-link fence along the river frontage there and that should forevermore keep any new trash from getting into the river at this location. So, THANK YOU City of Franklin for taking those extraordinary and environmentally conscientious measures to protect the Blackwater River.

The only other water quality issue I saw was when I was coming in from patrol on March 10 in that hurricane of a wind. The river was covered in sawdust once again. Starting 200 yards downriver from the boat landing and stretching downriver for about an eighth of a mile. When sawdust sinks, it becomes sediment. That much sawdust in the river could negatively impact bedding fish species in the river. That sawdust/sediment can keep eggs from hatching, and many species of fish in the river will soon be bedding up and spawning. I have contacted the mill about the issue and they are now looking into a solution to the problem.

Well, everybody is aware of the strange weather we have been experiencing, summer-like conditions one day, snow the next, back-and-forth round-and-round. It’s gotten so bad here recently I have to take everything I own with me on a three-day patrol. Shorts for one day, insulated drawers for that night, short-sleeved shirt for this day, four goose down jackets for the next.

So I was very happy to come across Mr. Groundhog (Mr. GH) the other day standing at the entrance of his quite trashy house located at the old Franklin dump and wheeled the boat round to go back and speak to him.

Moonpie said, “Are you sure you want to do this? He looks like he’s pissed off or something.”

I agreed, the robust rodent was standing erect with quite a scowl on his face. So we pulled up anyway and I started introducing ourselves only to be cut off by Mr. GH who exclaimed, “I know who y’all are! All of us out here know who y’all are (huff huff)! I see y’all out here all the time poking around. Whatdaya want? Come now, speak up, hurry up, I’m very busy!”

“Well,” I said, “We were wonderin’ if you could explain this crazy weather to us we been having. I mean look at today: it’s 75 degrees on March 9. So can you please tell us is spring here and winter gone and what’s the forecast for the rest of this month?

“Really,” Mr. GH replied (huff huff, grunt grunt, this time), “You think I’m like that pampered overweight rat they parade around in Pennsylvania every year huh? Look, I appreciate what you do out here on the river, but if you believe that we can predict the weather you are as dumb as that cypress tree right there. I get my weather info just like everybody does here at the old dump, We watch Joe Folks, channel 13 on an old RCA television we found here at the dump and is now in my basement.”

And with that Mr. GH did a curt Joe Folks salute and jumped down his hole, and I never got my answer about the weather 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.