February freeze

Published 6:00 am Saturday, February 5, 2022

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Spirit of Moonpie and I spent February the 1st through the 3rd on the Blackwater above Burdette. The water was COLD at 34 degrees, and air temps ranged from 23 to 55 degrees. It was a COLD trip.

Whispering Bear came out with me on the second day for an afternoon excursion. She had never been on that part of the river, so I thought I would give her the arctic experience. She did really good and learned how to vertical jig for catfish. She also caught several, so that was a good experience for her. She did not complain about the cold either and was treated to a bald eagle sighting, which is always a plus.

I did not get downriver past the pump station where the big logjams are to clean up. I did however pick up on the part of the river that I was on. It was not terrible; however, I did find a terrible thing near the bridge. Some jerk tossed a bucket off the bridge that had a cat in it. I’m pretty sure the cat was already dead, but why the bucket had to go in the river is beyond me. All that did was make a boat for the cat to rot in. 

I was hoping to catch the blackfish schooled up like they do up there in the winter, but alas, I missed the season this year because the water was so low up there for so long. I caught only three, so that was disappointing. They are so fun to catch when they are stacked up in the guts (coves). However, I did catch plenty of catfish on the blade bait vertical jigging. They were holding over about 23 feet of water in a tight ball. I had to find them each time I caught one, because if the boat drifted off of the school, I wouldn’t catch any. Once I would find them, though, it was a guaranteed fish each drop of the lure. I saw a couple other hardy fellows up there that were catching a few racoon perch. Interestingly, one of the blackfish I caught I tossed up on the ice, hoping the eagle might get it. The next day it was gone. I do not know if the eagle got it or not. There was a very large blue heron that was standing on the ice in the back of the gut, watching me the next day. Whispering Bear said that was what ate the 5-pound blackfish and that it was waiting to be fed again. I don’t know if a great blue heron could eat a fish that big, but it was odd the heron was just standing there on the ice. It’s not like it could catch fish through 2-inch thick ice, so… who knows!

So, it was a good trip albeit a cold one. In my old age I find I cannot do so well in the extreme cold — hands don’t work, feet can’t get warm and every joint screams for a heating pad. I think I might have to set a wintertime 25-degree low limit from now on so I can continue to visit the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

Side note: I cannot think of the name of the nice fellow I talked to out there that offered to help me load my boat on the third day. If you read this, friend, please contact me with the email provided.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater Nottoway RiverGuard. To contact him about river issues, send him an email at blknotkpr@earthlink.net. He can also be followed on the Blackwater Nottoway RiverGuard Facebook page. Just type in “Blackwater Nottoway RiverGuard” in the search field on Facebook.