Discover The James Blog Entry 1 - December 19, 2010

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Mon, 12/20/2010 - 16:01

December 19, 2010

There are many things magical about the James River.  With the diverse interest's people have today, the James has something for everyone ... boating, swimming, hiking, fishing or just hanging out on the banks to name a few. For me it's a combination of fishing, nature, history and the people who love it.  When on the river, especially at sunrise, I believe that time offers the most clarity and the dreams and visions of your life you get have the greatest chance of fruition. It's then that I have a desire to write and make art that reflects the deep wonderful sense of calm and inner peach I feel from the surrounding views. Each one of us has the ability to go deep and pull on our own deep thoughts and experiences to reach that sense of deep peace and perhaps that's my place in this world, taking people out to achieve and find those places in the mind.

Becoming a working guide on the river was a dream and I assumed it would always revolve around fishing. But now another dream is forming, and it's spending time with eagles, observing them in their natural habitat, and sharing that time with people who want to also be out there. I'd like to add to this dream, and that's to keep a journal of observations, notes, thoughts and photos of the James to share with others. But also, to have a way to look back, and compare observations from year to year, and to continue learning about eagles and whatever else comes along in the future.

I started watching the local bald eagles a little over a year ago, and from these observations of resident bald eagles in their natural habitat I have learned that resident bald eagles are extremely territorial, and will defend their territory with any level of aggressiveness needed. It may be a simple warning call if an intruder is getting too close to the nest, or it may elevate to an aggressive flight pattern and chase another eagle out of its territory. Or, at the height of aggressiveness, the resident eagle could collide with the intruder, clenching talons into talons and the eagles spin in circles downward towards the river or ground.

The extreme cold weather we've been having has pushed a high number of the winter migratory eagles onto the tidal James River area.  This winter population of migratory eagles fly south, coming in from as far as northeastern Canada.  With the influx of eagles, the resident eagles have seemed to back off a bit on the defending their territory. There are so many, perhaps they become temporarily accepting of them due to the fact that there is such a high number of birds and it becomes to many eagles to chase/defend.  It is interesting to see this happening now in at least two territories. The main channel has been flooded with many migratory eagles, at times there are ten extra eagles flying in one territory.  

The recent cold snap had dropped the river's water temperature dramatically and ice has formed in many areas.  The last few days of sunny weather has broken up much of the ice and lots of ice chunks are flowing in the river now. 

-- Capt. Mike 12/19/10

The photo's story?  My wife and photographer extraordinaire, Lynda Richardson, took this photo.  It is the newest image added to my website. It's an image of Baba, who lives high in a pine tree on a nest near Deep Bottom Boat Landing.  Baba & Pops are resident birds and were the first eagles to be named on the river. A great friend and his family were on the Discovery Barge II recently and his two sons were on the bow, looking at the eagles on their nest. I asked them if they'd like to name them, and after a couple of moments the youngest, Jon Michael (8 years old) said, "I wanna name the one on the branch next to the nest "Pops". "Wow" I thought, "That was my grandfather's name". So, obviously, we had to name his mate after my grandmother, "Baba" (means grandmother in Yugoslavian) 

-- Photo by Lynda Richardson

Uncontrollable Laughter

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Fri, 09/10/2010 - 14:01

September 10, 2010

On a beautiful September morning, a group of three ladies fished the James River with me for sunfish, bass and flathead catfish. Lynda, my wife, her adventure buddy Suzanne and Suzanne's sister Sheron enjoyed a few of the incredible fishing opportunities the James River offers. The entire day was great, with clear water, lots of fish and fish sightings. We watched as longnose gar prowled the shallows for minnows and other small fish. We watched the some of the last osprey fly the length of the river looking for food in the clear waters. But, the day really had two highlights. Personally, one of the best things about being a fishing guide is seeing someone catch their first fish. It does not matter if it's a kid learning how to cast, and reeling in a first fish, or an adult who has lived through decades of life and experiences. That first fish is always the same and the excitement level is generally from a 10 out of 10 and up to a 12 out of 10.

As it happened, Sheron caught her very first fish ever. It was a 4" redbreasted sunfish, and for someone to have lived a life full of outdoor adventures, it truly was her first fish ever. Suzanne caught quickly caught a small bass, and she took the time to show her appreciation to that little fella. In the photo to the right, she gave it a kiss and released it back into the river. It didn't take long as all three began catching one fish after the other.  Eventually, I paddled far enough downriver to get into the catfish waters and we began casting for flathead catfish. The day got even better, and Sheron, the lady who caught her first fish ever, a 4" fish, started to wear out 15 plus pound catfish!  She caught four of the first five cats and after that she was really hooked on fishing. Before the end of the trip, Sheron was already talking about going to the saltwater and go after marlin!

The catfishing was good and it got better. A lot better. Sheron hooked into a fish, a big one. As she was fighting that fish, Suzanne hooked into another big one.  As the two ladies fought catfish and both were getting close to the raft, Lynda hooked into another one! After the first one was landed, we had a fourth bite and upon a quick hookset ... another fish was on.  The second fish was boated, and I rebaited the line during the melee of activity and it almost instantly got a bite. Suzanne took the rod, set the hook and the fifth fish in about ten minutes was on. OK, to review this moment in time, we had two fish in the boat and three fish on lines. Lynda boated her big catfish and again, I rebaited, made a cast and handed Lynda the rod .... and then ... you guessed it ... a sixth fish was hooked.  Over the course of about 15 minutes, the three ladies hooked and landed six flathead catfish with the biggest being a citation sized 27-pound flathead catfish.

As I handed Suzanne a fish, she just started laughing and it triggered the four of us to laugh as we had about 100 pounds of fish in the bottom of the raft.  No words, just laughter until it was simply uncontrolled laughter. We decided to pile the fish up on Suzanne's laps when Lynda jumped over to help hold all the fish .... both chimed in with huge smiles and I somehow happened to take the photo of moment. Sheron played a role in the photo, also helping hold a few fish in place as well (you can see her hand with a blue glove coming in from the bottom left of the photo.  This was one of the many shining moments on the river during the summer of 2010.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!! 

-- Capt. Mike

DGIF Flathead Worshop

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Thu, 08/12/2010 - 12:01

On a hot August day, a few Department of Game and Inland Fisheries employees, myself and 14 attendees from around the state got together at Pony Pasture for the second FlatOut Catfishing workshop of 2010.  What I love so much about this program is the variety of folks who attend.  Of the fourteen attendees, only three were from the Richmond area.  There were folks from Troy, Barhamsville, Tory and Christiansburg.  I'm always amazed at how far people will travel to fish the uncomparable James River. 

This project, led by Chris Dunnavant, Angling Education Coordinator for VA, is one of my favorite adult programs.  In fact, all of Chris' events are well attended because of the attention to detail he has, and just the overall fun of fishing at his events. 


The Photos Stories?  Top Left:  Francis, one of the students in the workshop, was surprised by the powerful tail kick of the flathead catfish as she released an 18 pound fish back into the James River.

Top Right:  Bill reels in a nice fish.  This was his third or fourth fish of the day.  Bill loves catfishing and is one of my favorite people to fish with on the lower James.  In the spring of 2010, he landed his personal best ... 73 pounder!

Left: This image is a shining example of how well composed the day was.  A nice 16 pound fish proudly being diplayed after a wonderful fight.  Chris Dunnavant, once again, did a masterful job at arranging the day's fishing.  Thanks Chris from all participants!

Right:  Here is the morning instruction with a full class and most of the instructors int he background.  Barbara (lady in the middle under the tent) is a main cog in the way this event rolls.  She is the overseer of all land based actions in this event.  Thank you Barbara for once again holding down the fort while all had a great time in the James River. 

Catfish Programs Yield Big Fish

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Sun, 07/25/2010 - 11:05









July, 2010

I'm a catfish guide, and absolutely love connecting people with catfish. There are three types of catfish in the James River near Richmond ... the channel catfish, blue catfish and flathead catfish. Channel catfish can be caught, but generally when you go, you'll catch either blues or flatheads. In general, the tidal James is the home of blue catfish, while the non-tidal James (upriver of downtown Richmond) is the home of flathead catfish. Both get big, offer an absolute blast for both kids and adults.

Over the past week I connected a couple of groups with flathead catfish. The first group was a wonderful summer camp full of kids from Cat's Cap, a summer program run through St. Catherine's School. The second group was a fine assemblage of adult anglers through a Department of Game & Inland Fisheries program called "Flat-Out Catfish".  One of the aspects of the Flat-Out Catfish Program is the people who sign up. We usually have twelve or thirteen people each time we run this program, and they are from all over Virginia. Literally every class has constituents from all parts of the state, and nearly all are traveling hours to get to the James River to learn about how to catch these fun fish.

One of my favorite things to do during the connecting of people and fish is to take pictures. The following are images I took during this fantastic week of work.

DGIF Flat-Out Catfish program images.  Thirteen attendees, myself, Chris Dunnavant (DGIF Angling Ed Coordinator) and about a half dozen DGIF volunteers met at Pony Pasture for a day of instruction and fishing the river for flathead catfish. About 25 fish were landed with the biggest fish of the day being 27 pounds.  

Top of page, Left: Trying to land a flathead catfish by hand gets tricky. Gloves are a must! Here, volunteer instructor, Billy, gets nailed in the face with the splash of a flathead cat's tail as takes off at lightning speed.  After laughing it off, Billy grabbed the flathead's mouth and landed it for one of the attendees.

To the Right:  Michael, another of the volunteer instructors for the DGIF event, watches as a big flathead swims away after a perfect catch, photograph & release.

Below Right:  A happy FlatOut attendee with a nice flathead catfish.

 Left: Another happy wader from the Flat-Out Catfish program.

 Left, below:  Carol is all smiles holding her best fish of the day.  Not exactly sure of the size, but I'm guessing it was close to 20 pounds.  Nice fish Carol .... Hope to see you out there again on August 10, for Round II of Flat-Out Catfishing on the James. 










Cat's Cap Summer Program images.  We me met at the Meadow on the James. I took six at a time, and two Cat's Cap instructors on two rafts and out on the James for a few hours of catfishing.  I could not tell who had a better time ... the kids or the counselors seeing the kids having a great time! While not everyone caught a fish, every attendee was able to see, hold and marvel at these wonderful fish.  A number of them even kissed their fish before releasing them back into the river. Here are a couple of images from the day.

Left:  Smiling girls.  These two were a part of a group of six girls that caught a heck of a lot of big flatheads, including three that weighed over 20 pounds.

 Below Right:  A young man practices the art of "Thinking Fish".  This is his rendition of 'Thinking Fish', but in actuality, "Think Fish" means to picture yourself underwater, near your lure or bait and imagining all the activity around it.  The goal is to visualize as much as you can about the underwater surroundings, and when the fish hits your lure or bait, you'll be ready.












Above, left:  Another happy camper.  This youngster caught her first fish, which happens to weigh 25 pounds.  As she reeled in the great fish with such ease, it was a total surprise to me that this was her first fish ever.  Good stuff.

 --Capt. Mike


Go Fish! Kids Fishing Video on Facebook

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Fri, 07/16/2010 - 17:28

I have just spent the last two weeks fishing with middle school kids through a VCU summer program called Discovery@VCU.  The weeklong camp called Go Fish!, is full of exciting angling excursions in the Central Virginia area.  We have been on the South Anna River, James River (above and below Boshers Dam), Nottoway River, Herring Creek, Harrison Lake Fish Hatchery, and the VCU Farm Pond.  The photos are a collection of the past two weeks.  Make sure you turn on your volume!  You won't want to miss Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong singing Gone Fishing!  Click here to go to the video.