Published 8:48 am Monday, November 13, 2023

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Spirit of Moonpie and I spent November the 4th through the 8th on the Blackwater below Franklin. Yes, five whole days of most excellent weather. That was a record for me since I started camping on the rivers in the 1980s. So, yes, I was alive and well after five days, but I don’t think I will ever do that again, haaaaa. 

The main challenge was to keep ice since the temps were pretty warm for this time of year. I brought home a 3-pound chunk from the 50-quart cooler. My little camp 24-quart cooler made it four days. I think that’s pretty darn good for a 20-year-old Igloo cooler and Rubbermaid $20 cooler. It just goes to show you that you don’t need a $400 cooler to keep ice if you just take a few precautions like keep the coolers shaded and some weight on the top. I only used 3 gallons of gas in the 40 Hp outboard and only used 20% of my trolling motor battery, so I was pretty thrifty with my resources. 

Air temps ranged from 41 to 73 degrees, water temps were 59 degrees. I saw no water quality issues other than the large masses of leaves floating downriver. I did pick up right much trash, which I thought unusual being that we have not had any rain to speak of. I collected a packed orange VDOT bag full and collected a commercial trash can lid. Most of the trash was collected upriver near Franklin’s stormwater ditch to the river. I was sickened when I got downriver to the old Route 189 landing. Once again, the place has turned into a dumping spot. I have contacted the county and will be contacting VDOT to see about closing the place off. Over the years since 2000, I and others have cleaned that place up numerous times. Thousands of pounds of trash have been removed from that location, yes thousands. When the water comes up, a lot of that trash gets washed out into the river, and I’m tired of it. That’s a shame, I have been going there since the 1960s, but some people just have to ruin a good thing for the rest of us. The only solution I can see going forward is to gate and post the place and have VDOT close down the pull off there along the road.

The fishing on this trip was just OK and actually pretty slow. In a rare move I did not fish for chain pickerel as I have a right healthy supply frozen for fish fries. So, I tried fishing for speckle a couple of times and only caught one. I switched to bass fishing and caught eight, I think, the entire trip. The largest was 3.6 pounds, and another weighed 3, and the rest were smaller. All but two caught on topwater, which was pretty aggravating to fish with all the pine straw and leaves. 

So, it was a great trip. I’m up to 89 camping days total for the year and going to try to beat my record of 94 days I set back in 1999… which is kinda weird since we had the big flood that year and the river was inaccessible for quite a while. I want to break the triple digit barrier and get to 100… it’s going to be tight to accomplish that. I sure do love being out there, but nothing is forever, so I got to do it while the doing is good. Coming home the other day riding upriver, I was taking it slow and just looking at the river I love so much. I was feeling blessed that I have been able to spend so much time out there and see all the cool things I have seen over the years. And right then I saw something I have never witnessed before. A kingfisher flew across the river right in front of me with a sparrow hawk or some kind of little hawk right on its tail. The kingfisher, in a desperate move to shake the hawk, hit the water causing the hawk to overshoot it, then the savvy kingfisher took back off in the other direction with the hawk now way behind it. I don’t know the outcome of that flight fight, but it just reassured my resolve to keep going… for as long as I can… out there on the two rivers we call Blackwater and Nottoway.

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.