We held the Shenandoah One Lure Challenge on Saturday the 2nd of June.
The event was in Bentonville, Virginia, but some folks from Pennsylvania who are seeing their mighty Susquehanna troubled by causes other than those troubling the Shenandoah came and lent support. Some of them came down Friday night and camped out in the yard of the guy hosting the after-party. Fortunately, we had planned on beer delivery Friday night to get it cold for Saturday because those Pennsyltuckians put a hurting on it early. I arrived about 10PM after ShenandoahRiverRat delivered the beer. Another friend from Ohio on her way to Philly stopped in Friday night and set up camp. About midnight, I crawled into a cot in the bed of my pickup using my canoe for cover. And had a terrible night’s sleep. Bright full moon right in my eyes all night.
Saturday, the Pennsyltuckians whipped up a three course breakfast that couldn’t be beat. Breakfast burritos, hash browns, and coffee strong enough to be its own course. ShenandoahRiverRat showed up about 7:30AM and we sort of meandered down to the meet-up spot.
Roughly fifteen human and one canine participants had the reading of the rules, given suggestions that the rules were going to be loosely interpreted and even more loosely enforced, and then dispersed. Three floats were selected, which gave us data from roughly thirty miles of river.
Most fish caught was 34, taken by a real honest-to-goodness fish biologist from Pennsyltucky. Some of those were the dinkiest of dinks. The other real category was most inches - which was somewhere in the 250" range but I can’t remember exactly. He had fewer fish, most of which were also dinks but less dinky than the other guy. Also by a Pennsyltuckian. Another fisher caught 25, but he was one of the sponsors so we didn’t make up a category for him to win.
Most other folks caught 4 to 6 fish. A shame for a river that used to regularly produce 50 and 100 fish days.
Many of the fish caught had lesions and will likely be dead by the end of the summer.
The Shenandoah Riverkeeper came for the after-party and talked about their progress. Looks like he needs some support because they’ve done a lot of data collection but the state says they can’t come up with the money to assess it. I’ll ask about how to get funding re-arranged to do the assessing and pass along any information I get so Virginia residents from this forum can help push their legislators to approve the funds. It’s slow, but they are making progress. There’ve been some successful lawsuits against industry illegally dumping that have forced them into compliance with existing laws.
My most memorable moment came with a spinnerbait. I hadn’t fished spinnerbaits in a long, long time. However, CountryBoy had one on and had his rod bent double. He called out for me and shouted what he had tied on. I got up there lickety split and took his advice. On my first cast with it, I must have cast it into the fish’s mouth because my rod bent hard as soon as the lure hit the water. I had an 18" and fat largemouth. I also caught an 11" smallmouth and a 14" channel cat with the same spinnerbait. I think CountryBoy had a musky on because he lost his big fish. He was using braided line and it was cut clean as a whistle. Whatever it was, it had sharp teeth. Knowing the species for the Shenandoah, it was likely a musky. Highly unlikely to have been a pike or walleye, which are the only other toothy critters in this river. The walleye’ve never really been in the part we were fishing and aren’t likely to move in with more pollution. The pike are only in the deepest pools, and this was a relatively shallow section. Plus they’re the little chain pickerel and wouldn’t have put a bend in his stout rod like he had.
By the way, I showed what I consider to be the five basic strokes for recreational paddling, plus a rudder (which I don’t consider a stroke, but some do). We did a little ground school, and that was it. CountryBoy was following my lines. There’s one rapid that’s maybe a class 2 where I ran it that requires some tight maneuvering. I took the hardest line because I need the practice with oars. Well, CountryBoy in only his second outing in his canoe ran the same line and looked as cool and comfortable as a seasoned pro. He did GREAT! It wasn’t my training, because I didn’t go into much detail about reading water. I figured this is a low consequence trip - let him swim and learn. Faster that way. Anyway, he didn’t swim, but he did read the water well, and paddled it well too. And he taught me a thing or two about fishing that I appreciate.
We’ve still got pledges and matching funds to collect, but we got close to $500 in cash for the day in donations.
- Big D