KEVIN TATE: Rich, brown waters hold many mysteries, rewards

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

We coasted into the flats out of the main barge channel, began weaving through stumps and snags that would have been a hardwood bottom before the Tenn-Tom Waterway came to be, eased up to where the first trotline of the day was tied and began our run.
“Why is the water brown instead of blue?” our youngest passenger asked. He’d been to the beach a week before and the contrast was obvious. I explained about sediment and runoff, about how erosion pulls dirt into the creeks and rivers and how it eventually settles out when that water reaches the sea. That seemed to satisfy him, but it left me thinking.
In the ocean, in waters spanning the globe, gatherers of salt and minerals from time immemorial, the things that make each wave’s back story unique fall away. The land that once held this water, that sent part of itself along as it flowed by, settles out forgotten over time. Oceans may have no memory, but waters closer to home still carry their history with them.
Nutrients from soils that have grown crops, that have held grass for cattle or sustained acorn trees for deer, promote phytoplankton once waterborne, the bedrock of all aquatic life.
Plants too small to see with the naked eye turn carbon and sunlight into energy and grow to feed the smallest baitfish, enabling the water, in turn, to ultimately feed man. The color supports its blessings.
Our little passenger manned the dip net and claimed the fish, his eyes excitedly watching for tell-tale swirls along the line ahead. He trawled with the net between trotline catches, too, making sure nothing that might be caught slipped by. Each of his prospecting hauls came up empty but he was not discouraged. Some, he said, came close.
We kept our fishing trip brief so we could be sure to leave while he was still having fun. After the last line was checked, we cruised up Bull Mountain Creek, watching out for water moccasins, looking for eagles, admiring native hibiscus in bloom.
“I want to come do this again,” he told us as we were leaving, which meant the main thing we wanted to catch on the trip was, in fact, thoroughly hooked. We promised him we would. As he dozed in the back seat riding home, sunlight through the window, cool air on his shoulder, it reminded me the brown waters are good for growing bigger things, too.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point