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Virginia Wildlife - "Chickahominy Memories"

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Does anyone get "Virginia Wildlife" magazine? And if so, have you read the article "Down on the Chick"? Written by Jack Trammell, a Randolph-Macon professor. He writes the article with the help of a fellow named Bill Buck, who grew up on the river before the dam was built in 1943. Essentially a reminiscence of pre-dam Chick River life.

The article is interesting, but it turns into a lamentation about how the river degraded after the dam was built. In fact, the article seems short on facts, which, IMO, ought to be evident to someone who claims to be familiar with the river and lake.

One of the most perplexing assertions is that the lily pads "are gone." More specifically, yellow pond lily. Frankly, I'm not sure how anyone who's been on the river and lake in spring and summer could reach the conclusion that the yellow pond lily has "disappeared." The lake has huge swaths of yellow pond lilies. The Chickahominy, river and lake, is a botanist's dream, with huge fields of lily, pickerelweed, cattail, wild rice, and other water plants. Not only are they not disappearing, from my view they are become more vast. If the present condition of the lake represents a severe decrease from years gone by, the river of the 40's must have been clogged with vegetation.

The author asserts housing developments are springing up. That may be - somewhere. But one of the benefits of the acquisition of the lake by Newport News Waterworks is that much of the watershed is protected now. No developments are appearing around the lake, and very few upstream from there. Downstream from the dam, homes have been on the river for years, in areas where they can be built. In other areas, waterside land is unbuildable. The Wildlife management area has essentially protected Morris Creek. No question development is a problem. Runoff is a problem for every body of water in the Commonwealth. But the Chick is still a very remote feeling stretch of water.

The ill-effects of the dam are another thing. Bill Buck tells the author that the "shad fishery is dead." "...The shad run is gone, and the days of filling wooden fish boxes with hundreds of shad are gone." I say, if the shad fishery is gone, it was uncontrolled consumption and the filling of boxes with "hundreds of shad" that did it. But of course, the fishery isn't dead. One only need to go to Walkers Dam at the end of March and early April and see for one's self. The run of river herring is as strong as I've ever seen it. Counts of herring may be down due to under controlled Atlantic fishing, but hardly as a result of the dam. As for shad, I've caught more shad this year than any other. Again, under controlled Atlantic commercial fishing is the culprit for reduced stocks. The dam, with its fish ladders, is not the problem.

Reading this article, one might come away with the impression that the present condition of the river and lake is poor, and getting worse. Over the years I've been fishing it, the condition is good, and getting better. Numbers of bass and pickerel appear to me to be increasing. I'd like to think I've just become better at catching them, but I can't help but believe there are simply more to catch. I've caught more shad, bowfin, catfish and perch than in previous years. The numbers of ospreys, bald eagles and cormorants have dramatically increased. Blue Herons and Night Herons, Redwing Blackbird are all over the place. Below the dam, I sometimes pull up commercial crab pots, not to take a catch, but to see what's in them. And blue crabs are still very much present in the lower river. The people that live along the lake and river, seem to me, to care about the water.

When I saw that this month's magazine had an article on the Chick, I turned right to it and didn't put it down until I was done reading. I'll agree with the article that the river is definitely different. But worse? I guess if depends if you miss an old way of life that used the river without regard to what was happening to it. Of if you use the river and lake today, and appreciate all the acts and laws of conservation that came about as a result of that old way of life.

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You should be happy! A positive article would have brought more pressure to your spots!

Seriously though, maybe you should write a letter and see what they say. I haven't read that publication but do they have an editorial or write-in section?

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I don't see any readers letter's section.  It doesn't much matter.  

I just chalk it up to a an old man waxing nostalgic over what used to be.  I just thought the overall tone of the article was negative.  That's shame, when there is so much right with the Chick.  The Chick is a jewel among Virginia's public waters.  

As far as people coming to the Chick, I say come on.   That's easy to say since I know it won't happen.  The Chick doesn't attract too many people except locals that already know about it.  That's fine with me.  Even many locals won't go into parts of the lake I like the best.  The parts where you have to pop your boat into 4-wheel-drive and where a good drag means a lot.

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Probably has forgot a lot of stuff.

Did he mention the success of the Florida strain bass in the Chick?  :)

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He doesn't mention anything about the current state of the river or lake, except that the commerical trade, shad, and lily pads are gone.   He does say eagles are back, but that's about it.  

As far as shipping traffic on the river, which ended with the dam, I'm glad. The Chick would have ended up another Elizabeth River if commerical boat traffic and shipbuilding, industry had continued.  That would have created a real problem.  As it stands, the old vestiges of commerical trade that are still there have reverted to habitat.  

Nice to remember the old days.  But I sure as heck don't want them back.

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I totally agree.

The barges and other boats on the James can drive you nuts.

As for pads, has he crossed the river from Rock-A-Hock and visited the beautiful pads on the western shoreline?  Good fishing Micro, give 'em a try.

Maybe the old geezer got confuse and was talking about the James River?  :D   :D   :D

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Yes I think fishing on the Chick has been getting better over the last couple of years. We had a tournament and 17 won it. They fished the Chick all day. Me and my partner had 10 and we fished it all day as well.

Here is a link of the 2009 Outlook and things have definitely improved!!

http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/waterbodies/reports/2009%20Tidal%20River%20Largemouth%20Bass%20Outlook.pdf

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