• A message from James River Park System Environmental Educator Tyler Twyford, and apologies to Stravinsky.

As we shake off the Winter cold and return to the outdoors with a sense of relief, our local flora and fauna are also joyfully adjusting to the weather. The days are warming and growing longer, and with that come the great harbingers of Spring.

Tyler with SalamanderThe sleepy salamanders have made their great migration from their upland forest habitats down to the vernal pools to mate and mark the great transition from freezing weather to the cool rains of Spring. We are greeted by the first leaf buds sprouting from the treetops. Long dormant flower bulbs press up and above the cool ground. Eagles, ospreys and herons are returning to their nesting sites to hatch and raise their young. Migrating fish leave the sea to once again make their home in our James River.

One of the most important fish to the history of Virginia is the shad. They have long been a critical food source, and for the indigenous people and early Virginia settlers, they sustained life over long, cold winters. Their bounty has long been in decline due to factors including overfishing, the presence of invasive predatory species, the construction of dams that hinder migration, and pollution from runoff that buries in sediment. In the last “State of the James” report from the James River Association in 2019, the shad scored a mere 1% of their target restoration goal, which means that this critical species is in desperate need of our help. Despite their diminished numbers, however, they are still considered abundant, and plentiful for fishing, provided we fish with care and responsibly.

At the Fall Line, it’s easy to see the bounty of fish pushing upstream to spawn and the anglers that come to greet them. Some of the largest crowds of fishermen (and women!) gather at Ancarrow’s Landing, the Floodwall or Pipeline to drop a lure and try their luck. Most work with extremely light line, colorful shad darts, gold and silver spoons, and small bucktail jigs. Who knows – one could get lucky and hook a striper as well!

Are you a fisherman? What do you see as a sure sign of Spring? What do you most look forward to? How will you celebrate the return of Spring to the James River Park System?