Closing and opening years on the rivers

Published 2:17 pm Monday, January 9, 2023

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Editor’s note: Following are two separate reports that RiverGuard Jeff Turner wrote based on patrols he made nearly back-to-back, one at the end of 2022 and the other at the beginning of 2023.


Spirit of Moonpie and I spent December the 28th through the 30th on the Nottoway below Delaware. The water was cold at 32.90 degrees, muddy and high at 8 feet on the USGS gauge at Sebrell. Air temps ranged from 24 to 62 degrees. It was cold, and then it wasn’t. 

The fishing was really poor with the water temps that cold. I only caught one small catfish jigging the blade bait. 

OK, so here is the data for year 2022. I spent 82 camping days and nights on the river this year. These numbers are only for camping, not single-day trips on the rivers. For comparison, last year I spent 52. My record is 94 in 1999. I really tried to bust that magic 100 mark this year but just could not make it. So, it looks like I will never attain that triple-digit number. My total day/night camping number now is 2,096 since 1988. Trash totals were way up this year. Last year the total was 221 pounds, this year 608 pounds, with 209 coming from the Nottoway and 399 coming from the Blackwater. Total weight since 2001 is 102,217 pounds. Some of the weird stuff this year included a dead cat in a bucket, rubber raft, giant plastic table, kiddie car and a helmet. I had 11 eagle sightings this year, five on the Blackwater and six on the Nottoway.

So, there it is, another year gone. I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this. It’s getting pretty darn tough. The cold gets colder, and the heat seems to get hotter. My poor old, tormented body struggles to do what I ask of it. Sooner or later I know I will probably get hurt bad enough out there I will be forced to stop. I reckon that’s what it’ll take to put me down. 

Anyway… like every end of the year, I hope I will be healthy enough to continue doing what I love to do so much next year out there on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.


Spirit of Moonpie and I spent January the 1st through the 3rd on the Blackwater above Burdette. The water was 5.7 on the USGS gauge at Burdette, clear and 43 degrees. Air temps ranged from 39 to 70 degrees; it was a real treat to not be freezing out there in January!

Well once again I struck out on the blackfish. Usually I can catch dozens this time of year up on that part of the river. I just don’t know what the issue is. Have I missed them or are they late this year? Ugggg. I also fished for raccoon perch but caught nary one. I did talk to one fellow who had caught one. I also saw some other folks catch a bunch of speckles, though they said most were small. I did not cast any. Once again, I caught a bunch of white and channel catfish jigging. None were very big, all caught on the blade bait. Still have not seen a striped bass yet.

It was nice to see an eagle every day I was out there. It even escorted me part of the way in on the last day. I think it was starting to recognize me, hhhaaa. This is a very large eagle. I reckon it’s got a nest around there somewhere. I think they have babies in the nest by now, and I sure would like to find it. 

I’ve got to go back up there again soon to finish clearing the branches of a large cypress tree that fell more than halfway across the river. I hated to see this one fall as it was right at my base camp. A beautiful tree. But its limbs were already starting to cause a log jam, so I’m going to try to get ahead of that potential problem before it gets too bad. I lost my anchor pulling logs out of it the first day and might have ruined my battery-powered chainsaw in the process. Anyway, I’m taking my pole saw next time; I think that will be easier and safer for me than hanging over the side of the boat trying to cut limbs. 

It was so nice on day two, I got Whispering Bear to come out with me for awhile. The plan was to go downriver and pick up trash. However, the outboard was overheating (from sucking up debris in the log jam), so I decided not to risk that. Instead we cleaned up an abandoned campsite on a sandbar. Someone had left an entire family-size tent there. It was all collapsed and half full of water and sand. It looked like it had been there a right long time. That was a mess to clean up, but I wanted to get it before it ended up in the river. That would really have been a mess. The place where this tent was is a place I constantly have had to clean up over the past 20 years. I have probably removed 500 pounds of trash and now a tent from the location. 

I keep wishing people would be better stewards of our rivers. But I don’t see any change. In all the years I have been doing this, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I guess there will always be people who just don’t care out there on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

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