Shad are plentiful

Published 7:41 pm Saturday, March 11, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent March the 5th through the 7th on the Nottoway below Courtland. The water was 53 degrees and 6.34 on the USGS gauge at Sebrell. Air temps ranged from 36 to 65 degrees; it was quite nice. I saw no water quality issues.

The trash, though, was unbelievable up above Courtland. Whispering Bear came out the second day to help, thank goodness. We put 200 pounds of trash in the boat that day, most of it glass bottles. I’m still convinced there is a household trash dump in the swamp somewhere way upriver. Why would salad dressing bottles and ketchup bottles be in river trash if it were not a household dump? 

The fishing on this trip for shad was pretty darn good. I did not fish for anything else. I caught about 30. A fluorescent orange spoon that I custom-make was the best lure. All I do is just paint the silver ones. A couple of the shad were American. Most of the shad were roe. It seemed there are some herring in the river also. I was getting a bunch of really small hits. Funny, also I caught two very large speckle at one place on a pink curly tail I was trying for the shad.

I had a pretty wild experience on this trip. From time to time I ask the River Spirits (that appear as owls) to help people I know that are very sick. To do this I have to do a Prayer or Spirit Dance as it may be. That has to be done late night around the fire beside the river. Anyway, I did such a ritual for a friend of mine the first night I was out there. On day two, at nearly dark I headed to my base campsite. Just about the time the boat hit the shore, a huge barred owl that was perched only 5 feet up off the water, on a giant grapevine that is there, flapped its wings and ’bout scared the biscuits out of me. It was sitting there staring at me with these gigantic eyes with a full moon shining to boot! I rarely see one perched that low to the water. I reached over and turned the key off to the motor and grabbed for my camera box, but of course it took off and flew into the woods back behind my base camp. I have done a lot of Spirit Dances in my life out there on the rivers. I have done them and had the River Spirits start calling while I was doing the ritual. I have had them fly up close to the camp and start screaming. I even had one take a beaver pelt from me that was hanging up in a tree one night after going to bed. But I have never had one greet me at the campsite like that. It made the hair on the back of my neck (and Moonpie’s) stand up. It’s something I will never forget. 

But what’s really great is knowing the Great River Spirits are truly helping me to send strong medicine to the people I love and care about when I’m out there on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.

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.