Fried bugs stink

Published 5:55 pm Friday, April 26, 2019

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 22nd through the 24th on the Blackwater below Franklin. The water was 65 degrees, a little high and very fast the whole trip. Air temps ranged from 51 to 84 degrees.

The trash on this trip was bad, but it was all pretty far downriver. Someone besides me has done some cleaning up on the river right below Franklin and they did a very good job. So thank you whoever did that. I wish you would let me know who you are.

I ended up with one giant bagful, but it was the other stuff that would not fit in a trash bag which I was stunned to find. Like a 55-gallon plastic drum? Seriously, how does this stuff get in the Franklin stormwater ditch? I even found a Styrofoam pumpkin, more basketballs and two softballs.

The fishing on this trip was … phenomenal, crazy, berzerk! I tried for shad, caught none, but I heard some were being caught back upriver near the mill. These would be returning shad, headed back to the ocean. I tried for white perch casting and jigging, I caught one itty-bitty one. I tried bass fishing and caught one big chain pickerel.

But the crazy day was day two. I was on my way to the Cherry Grove eagle nest to see how they were doing, and when I got to the clay banks I saw herring beating the shore. This is the second time this year I seen the herring on shore. It used to be such a common sight years ago, but now it’s like a major event.

So, I was sitting there watching the fish do their love thing and decided to cast to the shore with a big stick bait. BAM! First cast a striper. Second cast. BAM! Another striper. That happened three more times in successive cast. The stripers were following those herring and it was a feeding frenzy. In the next hour I caught, I guess, 20 stripers, a few in the 22-inch range.

That was really fun and I wanted to get my dad into it, but there is nowhere nearby to pick up someone from shore, plus in an hour, it was over. It was one of those “you had to be there” events. This has been the best striper season for me anyway, even without this event I have caught more this year than in any previous year I believe. Hopefully, the herring will continue to get more plentiful also and then, maybe, VDGIF will let us keep 10 a day like the Hickory shad. That would be nice.

Wow! The Moonpie Critter Patrol was bountiful this trip. We saw beaver, Great Blue Heron, bald eagles, deer, wild turkeys and snakes everywhere. When we went way upriver the first day, the water was pretty high and the swamps were completely submerged. This drives the snakes up into the trees and boy were they hanging heavy. I reckon I saw 100 that first day alone. All watersnakes, I did not see the first cottonmouth.

Something else, unfortunately, that was bountiful this trip was the BUGS. Lordy, seriously bad. Saw a couple of deer flies also so it won’t be long before those aggravating blood suckers are swarming. And the ticks, I ended up with four attached. Even though I use tick spray, I still got attacked. I guess they were falling out of the trees. I woke up the first morning and there was one crawling toward my head on the tent door, So I am bound to have imported it from outside the tent on my clothes. I sure hope I do not get Lyme disease. Even as I sit here at home writing this report I am being tormented with the feeling that there are ticks in my hair and crawling up my legs.

What was truly crazy though on night No. 2 was at basecamp. Soon as I got the lantern and fire lit, the bugs gathered. I guess it was because night No. 2 was so much warmer. It was terrible. Skeeters, giant skeeter hawks and some kind of crazy thumbnail-sized beetles that when they hit you in the head was like being hit by a rock. And the smell! Between bugs crashing and burning into the lantern and fire pit it smelled like I was burning bags of hair. It stunk so bad it has taken two days for that stink to leave my olfactory glands. Seriously, I was sitting there at the camp fire munching on Cheez-its with Moonpie when she said, “Dang, these crunchy square things blended with this aromatic burnt bug stink really blows, don’t you think? It’s kinda like we’re eating the bugs.”

I thanked her for ruining snack time and wondered how many bugs I had indeed probably eaten in past five hours. Feeling a bit ill after contemplating that, I put the lid on the Cheez-its bucket, doused the fire and decided I had eaten enough extra protein that night on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

To contact Jeff about river issues, email him at