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Bertie County Rivers
05 - 04 -03 Shad Report
Bertie County Rivers
Cashie River
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   The Albemarle Sound is a very large waterway that is several miles wide and nearly seventy mile in length. In the beginning it served as an important water highway for coastal and world trade. Over the early settlement of the Colony, seagoing vessels sailed through several inlets as they pass inside the outer banks. When a vessel Sailed due east from Manteo they would arrive at what later would be Bertie County.  
    Bertie County is in reality a peninsula, because it is surrounded on three sides by water. One side is Chowan River that starts in the state of Virginia and flows southeast and later formed the northern border of Bertie County. This river at her widest point is over one mile wide when it joins the Albemarle Sound just adjacent to Eden House and the US Highway 17. The other two sides are the Roanoke River. It has a width varying between 300 and 900 feet it is located in northeastern North Carolina. The river flows from the dam at Roanoke Rapids Lake and flows along two sides of Bertie county and serves as the boarder till it meets the Albemarle Sound. The Roanoke River is about 138 miles long. This River is the major tributary to Albemarle Sound.

   A total of five rivers originate within Bertie or flowed along the shoreline on each side of the county before entering the Albemarle Sound. Bachelors Bay at the head of Albemarle Sound this is a sizable body of water that starts to narrow down into a point, where four rivers emptying into the area. They are the Cashie, middle, eastmost, and Roanoke River. Heading west upstream from the mouth of the Cashie you find the first branch that is named Wading Place Creek. It is located on the right side only a few miles upstream from the start at Batchelor Bay. This Creek takes a direction that heads north where it immediately divides near the mouth into Wading Place Creek on the left and Chiska Creek to the right. The main branch of the creek leads toward the left and travels to where it starts near the Merry Hill community. Both the Wading Place and Chiska (Choowatic) are less than ten miles in length.

     Salmon Creek in addition to the five rivers that originated or passed next to Bertie County there are two major creeks that flow into the headwaters of the sound. The largest is Salmon Creek with her entrance a couple of miles east of Eden House. Where it empties into the Albemarle sound. At the west end of Albemarle sound is where the Chowan, Middle, Eastmost, Cashie and Roanoke Rivers plus Salmon and Cashoke Creeks all empty into that body of water. Near the head of this Bay and to the right is Cashoke Creek that starts near the entrance to Cashie River. Some maps have it emptying into the mouth of the Cashie. This stream travels northwest and ends near Merry Hill. On the route it passes the Shipyard Landing.

    Chowan  River the upper branched of the Chowan River extends northwest and goes pass Eden House , Ashland, Mount Gould, White and Perry's Beach, Colerain, Harrellsville and Tunis. Where it now crosses underneath SR 158 / US #13 Highways. Just pass Winton it now becomes a much smaller river that continues upstream. The Meherrin River branches off to the left a couple of miles south of Winton to pass Murfreeboro and continues northwest and then near Boykin and then Nottingham Virginia.

       With all these places for me to fish and the relative deep waters makes it an ideal place to catch fish in the spring when they head to the shoreline near the banks to spawn. At this time of the year the herring, shad and rock fingerlings had hatched and created a feasting table for the now very active larger species due to the warming water conditions. All of this made the area a prime fishing ground. On a good day you could catch 50 to 100 White Perch in the Chowan River during the migration season as they traveled upstream to spawn. 

       For many, many years these bodies of water have supported commercial fisheries, plus the sport fishermen that plow the waters all the time in hopes of catching that really big one. During the spring spawning migration fish could be caught by the boatloads. There were the Herring, Shad, Rock Fish and White Perch. Also there were large mouth Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Eel and Carp in large quantity. It was a common experience on a given fishing trip to catch as many as 500 or more Herring, during a days outing while drifting with a skim net in any of these places. The Chowan was a great place to catch herring when they migrate upstream in the spring of the year. Pound nets were strung from near the shoreline to almost half way across the river. Poles were driving about twenty feet apart into the sandy bottom on which the net was hung and secured. The net was strung from the center of the channel toward the shore and was used as a barrier to herd the fish into a large trap. The fish are expected to enter the room size trap through a funnel that channels them into the center of the impoundment. With luck a few will escape back through the small entrance, but most would be trapped until the fishing boat arrives to drop a flap over the entrance and then start hoisting the net to dump the catch into the bottom of the boats. At the peak of the migration a single pound net will produce a boatload of fish of many species. The most would be Herring but on a given day there will be Shad, Eel, Carp, Catfish, Rock Fish, etc. After reaching the Processing Plant the fish were shoveled into a large trough where then slid down into a large drum covered with hardware cloth. The rotation of the drum and power washing hose the scales were removed before they were dumped out at the other end. Here they moved by a conveyer belt next to a large cutting table where workers would grasp the fish by the head and hold it upright on the table surface and with one quick motion they would almost remove the head just behind the gills and rotate the razor sharp knife and in what looked like a single swipe of the blade would make a thin cut along the lower edge on the stomach cavity and remove the row. The fish roe was washed and placed in cans where it was sealed and placed under pressure to preserve the finished product. Then a twin bladed saw was used to fillet and remove the backbone before it was packed in glass jars to create pickled herring with vinegar and spices. Or the dressed fish could be placed in a large wooden vat where salt was added layer on layer for corning purposes.

     The upper reaches of the Cashie are composed of shallow swamps, and steams that were not deep enough to be navigated by large boats. But made for fine fishing.  The Cashie River and their contributors divide the county approximately in half by splitting it from north to south. There are five Creeks that originate and exits into the Cashie Waterway before it flows into the Albemarle Sound Bay.

        I have had  the chance to boat up and down all these steams, too fish, and visit each of these bodies of waters. My Father and I have had great success when we departed for a days fishing from these rivers. We have departed at the same time as other fisherman and return to find they caught a few, but more than likely we had a long stringer of Speckle Perch.(Crappie) Part of this success results was from skill and luck, but mostly from preparation.My father and I usually constructed several hurdles every year after the weather turned a little cooler. We would find an ideal spot and sink a long pole into the creek bottom a couple of boat lengths off from the shore. Next, we cut myrtle bushes that were then loaded into the boat and taken to the spot of the new hurdle. Before sinking the brush,we made a loop with  ropes  so as to create a collar. After the collar was created it was placed over the top of the pole and forced downward with a paddle to make a large brush pile starting at the creek's bottom. We would stack many Mrytle branched over the center pole until it was about three feet below the water line. Then we would slip a cement block over the top and let it slide down the pole, the weight would pust all the brush down. The next operation was to saw the pole off. Then push it below the water line so that other fisherman hopefully could not locate it. Care had to be taken that you cut your brush away from the bank area, so that you did not leave any tell-tell evidence that would a clue that a hurdle was created nearby. Most important we needed to remember where all of are hurdles were located in each creek or river. My father never made a map to show where his honey holes were constructed. He had them blue printed in his head. When I would go fishing with him he would know where most of them where and I would rember the spot also.The hurdles would usually last for about three years before it had to be restored with additional brush added to the top of the pile.

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