Riverkeeper report: Ditch of Despair

Published 10:04 am Monday, April 10, 2017

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 1st through the 3rd on the Blackwater below Franklin. Air temps ranged from 43 to 72 degrees and the water was 58 degrees. The river was a little high and running like a ditch from those torrential rainstorms the day before.

The fishing (at least for shad) on this trip was once again phenomenal. I think this is one of the best shad runs we have had in several years. I guess I caught a hundred or so over the two days I fished. All caught on that hot pink jig and twisty tail. At one point when I was catching one every cast, I started changing lures to see if they would still bite. I tried little spinners etc., but only had a few hits. So there is something about that hot pink they really like.

This is the latest collection of trash that Riverkeeper Jeff Turner has pulled from the Blackwater River. — Submitted | Jeff Turner

Now let me tell you where I caught all these shad. It’s a fabulous secluded place upriver from Franklin. If you look on our river atlas it is that sharp bend at mile marker 18 and ¾ miles. WHAT! You don’t have a Blackwater/Nottoway/Chowan atlas? Go to our website at www.blackwaternottoway.com look under maps and get one.

Anyway, that location is the new shad hole. I even marked it at the location so folks venturing up there for the first time can find it. I took a rope once used by a guy poaching herring up there with gill nets, and hung it up in a tree and attached a reflector to it. You can’t miss it now, unless of course the poacher removes it. I highly encourage folks to go up there, not just for the shad fishing, but also the bass and bream fishing is also super fantastic.

I would have liked to have spent more time on this trip fishing, but there was so much trash on the river downriver from Franklin. I have not seen it this bad in a long time. I filled the boat up and could have done so several more times. I could not get to a lot of it in my boat.

It would be nice if a group of canoes and kayakers would go out there and work that area downriver from where the City of Franklin storm water ditch comes to the river. I have litter grabbers and trash bags I can provide if somebody wants to help me get this cleaned up.

Speaking of helping me, THANK YOU whoever it was that picked up that big bag of trash I had unloaded on the pier at the boat ramp. I hope you got the river atlas I put in the back of your truck. What amazes me about all this trash is that it is not just street trash. A lot of it is household trash. For example, I picked up shoes, hair brushes, hair care products, dishwashing liquid, toys, clothing even a 5-gallon water jug like that kind that goes on a water cooler. This is garbage that people are throwing in a ditch.

This is crazy and hard to believe, but a quarter mile downriver from the Franklin storm water ditch, I found two 1-quart oil bottles floating together in a bush. Same brand, viscosity etc. So somebody was changing oil or something, threw the oil bottles in the gutter or ditch, and they stayed together all the way through that system, into the river and then for a quarter of a mile … amazing! Amazing some idiot did that. It’s a shame the river gets trashed like this by stupid people that just don’t care about where their trash ends up.

The City of Franklin, me — heck, a whole army of Riverkeepers — just can’t combat this problem on our own. It takes the people of a community to care enough about their community to really make a difference.

I’m going to submit a plan to the city this week that will help the Armory leg of the Ditch of Despair. I believe a skirt boom, purchased by the Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, could be placed by the city in the retention pond behind the old theater near and around its outflow pipe.

That boom would trap trash coming into that pond and force it to the two South corners of that pond. Of course, the City would then have to have a crew to periodically remove that trash. I hope the City will be open to study the proposal to mechanically intervene in this terrible trash flow to the Blackwater River.

The Blackwater needs our help. We, the people, must do everything we can to protect the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.