Thursday afternoon Niles Murray took me to his place near Lake Blackshear and we met his brother-in-law Warren Budd and Gordon Rogers there. After a great dinner and a short nights sleep we drove to the boat ramp below the Blackshear Dam and launched two small boats. For the next 12 hours we floated the Flint River, all the way to the ramp at the Highway 32 bridge. It was a great trip.
We fished from the boats in the deeper stretches of the river and got out and waded shoals when we came to them. We fished at least ten shoals along the river and caught a few bass. Niles had the best luck, by far, landing three nice largemouth, a good shoal bass and several small bass. The river was very low and fishing was not as good as expected, but we all enjoyed the day on the water.
The river is beautiful, with no development in sight from the water except one plantation lodge. Cypress trees line much of the bank and limestone ledges and bluffs offered a stark contrast to the clear water. It was hot, but getting out and wading helped us stay relatively cool.
At one shoal as I waded toward the bank I saw a young raccoon at the base of a huge cypress tree. He was digging in the mud, apparently looking for breakfast. It is unusual to see a raccoon out in the daylight so this one must have been hungry. He ignored me until I got within about 50 feet, so I turned to go back to the boat anchored in the middle of the shoal to get my camera.
I guess my splashing going back to the boat scared him, or he got full, because when I turned with the camera he was gone. I looked all over the bank for him but never saw any trace. Maybe he was camera shy.
As we fished along we saw osprey flying over the river and diving to the water to catch fish. One was carrying a big fish and we kept disturbing it. It would fly further down the river as we approached, land in a tree and try to eat, but we would get close and it would fly off again. At one point a young bald eagle soared down the river ahead of us.
Near one sandy bluff bank Niles suddenly said "Look at that fox." A small red fox was playing around its den in the bank. The we saw another, slightly bigger fox run across a fallen tree up the bank. Those two kept running around and as we looked closely we saw the mama fox lying under a nearby bush, keeping an eye on its kits and us. She never moved anything but her head and ears.
Late in the day we heard the familiar whistle "Bob White." There are two big plantations, Mercer Mill on the east bank in Worth County and Chokee on the west bank in Lee County, along the river. Both are huge and are managed for wildlife, especially quail. We could not see much of them but Niles said the land is beautiful.
Gar were abundant in the river and constantly surfaced near the boat. We didn’t hook any of them but it would be fun fishing for them. Niles and I discussed how to clean and cook them. They taste good but cleaning one is a difficult task.
I enjoyed getting to meet Gordon and Warren. Gordon is the Executive Director of Flint RiverKeeper, an organization dedicated to conserving the river. He is a fisheries biologists and his knowledge of fish, and even better his knowledge of the river and the effects of modern society on it, was amazing. He is very passionate about his job but not a fanatic on stopping all changes. He just wants to conserve the river and keep it as natural and as healthy as possible.
Warren is the vice chairman of the Department of Natural Resources, the group that sets policy for all the department, including the Wildlife Resources Division. He, too, is very knowledgeable about the problems facing the Flint River and wants to work to conserve it.
Both Warren and Gordon love to fish. Team this with all our love for the natural world and the four of us got along well. It was a great trip and I recommend it to everyone that loves the outdoors. You might not have as great companions as I did on my trip, but you will enjoy it.
Just be prepared for a very tiring day. I can hardly move after all that wading!