Spring Spawn: A Hobbyist Fisherman and His Tales on the Three Rivers
This is the first installment of what is hopefully a multi-part series, concerning the abundant recreational freshwater fishing located in and around the Franklin Southampton area.
The geographic area encompassing Franklin and Southampton consists of three river systems which together create the Chowan River that drains into the Albemarle Sound of North Carolina. Many Virginians do not realize that the water shed for our area actually flows toward the Outer Banks and not into the Chesapeake Bay. Franklin and its famous Blackwater River are only a few miles west of the Chesapeake Bay water shed.
The three rivers that make up our local watershed are as different as they are diverse. The Meherrin, Nottoway and the Blackwater rivers are teaming with life. Each has very different characteristics and provides seasonal fishing that can make for a phenomenal adventure. I cannot think of another place on Planet Earth where an angler can catch a spawning, ocean fish in the shade of a 1000-year-old bald cypress tree, while watching a bald eagle soar overhead and listening to the sounds of a wild turkey gobble.
Grab your reels, check your tackle, locate your personal floatation device and lets launch this series for a fishing adventure that rivals that of anywhere in the country. February of each year mark the beginning of the spring spawn for several species of salt-water fish that traverse our rivers to give life to the next generation. American shad, white perch and rockfish make their annual pilgrimage up these smaller tributaries each spring to find a suitable place to lay their roe and spawn. Rockfish are the obvious rock stars (pun intended) of this migration due to their awesome fight and delicious fillets. Rockfish, a prized rare catch, can be caught in each of our rivers generally with the use of live or cut bait on bottom rigs. White perch, also excellent table fair, can literally be caught by the hundreds when large schools are moving up river. Shad sometimes miss some of the spring hype due to extremely boney meat. Though every old timer in our community has a no fail recipe to cook the bones away, I have never had a positive experience. Shad are, however, prized for their roe witch is usually either deep fried or prepared with scrambled eggs. I realize that the American Shad may never make the cover of a popular fishing magazine but if you ever have the opportunity to hook into a 3 lb. shad with an ultra light rod and reel, in swift moving water, I promise you will be back for more. Following these schools of spawning white perch and shad is an amazing opportunity for rod bending action.
Catfish, some much larger than you might imagine are scouring the river bottoms for an opportunistic meal. Bottom rigs baited with cut shad can produce awe-inspiring battles between man and beast. Blue catfish can be harvested in area waters over 30 lbs. although 3 to 6 lbs. is much more common. The chance at hooking one of the big boys keeps local boat ramps full during April and May. Channel catfish are also numerous and offer a yellow colored fillet that cannot be matched by any farm raised catfish that you might get in a seafood market or restaurant. Get your bottom rigs ready, your heavy line threaded and get ready for a reeling good time!
Always remember to take a child fishing – few things in life are more gratifying than watching a young person struggle with their first fish on the line.
Fins & Grins: