Riverkeeper report: Raccoons shag on Blackwater

Published 10:54 am Saturday, July 22, 2017

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 17th through the 19th on the Blackwater below Franklin. Air temps ranged from 72 to 90 degrees and the water was 80 degrees. Trash was very bad this trip. I collected nearly a full bag of just styro cups, plates and food containers. I sure wish I could figure where that stuff is continually getting into the Franklin storm water ditches.

I also wrestled in an oil boom that is essentially a 10-foot-long sock, and as big around as a football, which is made to soak up petroleum products floating on water. That thing weighed like 100 pounds, and I could only get it out of the river by dragging it up on the back of the boat where it stayed the entire three days. It finally dried out enough so that when I got home I could get it into the truck to dispose of. That thing kicked my butt. BUT, that’s okay. I’m going to start taking a battery-powered Warn winch with me to help get stuff like that — and also the giant catfish — in the boat.

As for the fishing this trip, well, let’s just say it was … BAD. The first night I caught an eight- and a 13-pounder and on the second night I was SKUNKED! I’m gonna blame that on the fact both nights I did not get to fish where I wanted to. The chance of storms was so high I had to stay up close to the bridge in Franklin. So that is my story and I’m sticking to it. I did not even try casting for bass. I caught bream for bait using the fly rod, but that was very slow also.

So I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot about these rocks people are painting and leaving around town. Wanting to get in on this action, Moonpie painted a big river shell bright yellow and put our Riverkeeper logo on it to place on the river. Well, we did that this trip and it can be found on the Blackwater downriver from Franklin … ohh, a couple of miles, I guess. I don’t want to get too specific. So it will be fun to see how long, if ever, somebody finds it.

On the Moonpie critter patrol we saw some beavers, an osprey, some deer that still had spots on them, plenty of Great Blue Heron, a cormorant and a juvy bald eagle. And speaking of the eagles, all of this year’s crop have flown the coop.

But as far as critters go, the highlight on this patrol was the first night we were anchored close to the mill. There is a little pump house there on the river and a metal bulkhead along the shore. There are a lot of lights there, which illuminate the shore and river with a strange orange glow. Anyway, it had just got good and dark when I heard all this commotion up on the shore by the pump house. Suddenly from out of the darkness came these two raccoons. They were doing the weirdest thing, like they were line dancing or something. They always stayed in single file and back and forth and back and forth they went. Moonpie said, “Hey! Them ‘coons are shagging on the river tonight.” After watching them for a few more moments, I replied “YEP, I think you’re right; however, the kind of shagging your talking about and the kind that I think is going on is waaay different. Looks to me like there are raccoon romantics at play here 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.