Riverkeeper report: Limb lines killing wildlife

Published 9:40 am Monday, June 19, 2017

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 9th through the 11th on the Nottoway below Delaware. Air temps ranged from 60 to 90 degrees and the water was 73 degrees. The river was a little muddy, high and trash was not too bad.

The fishing was pretty good. I had no problem catching all the bream I needed for catfish bait on the fly rod. I did not cast for bass. The first night I caught four cats to four pounds. The second night I caught one that was six inches long right at dark that was the same size as the bait, I have no idea how that happened. The second fish I caught right about midnight was a very nice 23-pounder. I’m guessing all the blood I was losing from the skeeters aided in me catching that fish.

The Riverkeeper found this illegally abandoned limb with a dead fish on it.

Moonpie critter patrol was thin this trip; we saw a few beaver, a muskrat, great Blue Heron, woodpecker, Kingfish and a new thing. We watched an owl or hawk jump up from behind a cypress knee and fly away into the swamp with a snake. I’m guessing it was a hawk, but it was going away from us so I could not see its head. Of course we also saw a bunch of snakes, some were really large, all were water snakes.

The other critters we saw were dead. That’s right, I said dead. Some uncaring person had set a bunch of limb-lines and left them out there to kill. For y’all that do not know what a limb line is, it is simply a line with a hook and usually a weight that is attached to a tree limb on one end and the other end dangles into the water with a hook and bait of some sort on it.

I saw several that had had fish or something on them but it had already rotted off. One line still had a fairly large gar on it. I just can’t imagine in this day and age somebody being that stupid to leave lines out like that. Besides wasting that resource, the dead fish on these lines draw critters like Great Blue Heron, otter, mink, turtles, etc., then these critters get caught on the line and also die. It is a drawn-out, torturous death.

So I spent the better part of the morning that day removing those lines from the river and collecting evidence. After getting all of it home and applying some different techniques to retrieve information from the faded tags, I was able with the help of VDGIF Enforcement to determine who had deployed the devices. The culprit was found to be a juvenile, so it was decided that VDGIF and I would issue a strong warning to the fisherman and let disciplinary action be handled by his folks.

Limb lines are a great and fun way to catch fish, but there are regulations in place for a reason. I worked really hard years ago to get the regulations amended so the lines must be removed when not being fished. Left in the river not attended daily, they are a perpetual killing machine.

We want everyone to enjoy our local waterways, but it’s your responsibility to know the rules and regulations before venturing out 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.