James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 11.34'
Flow: 37300 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond

  • All trails open and in good shape except Poop Loop. Poop Loop is still very wet and could use another day to dry out.

Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 7:06am
Low Tide: 2:24pm

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Posted In: Fishing, James River

Snorkel outing at ‘Pipeline’ turns up usual, unusual suspects

Andy Thompson

July 22, 2014 2:50pm

When Jon Billman was in town two summers ago to write the Outside Magazine cover story on Richmond, Chris Hull, Pat Calvert and I took him down to the Pipeline to spend some quality time on the mighty James. We fished and snorkeled mostly, and Billman had a blast (at least based on the writeup).

Cheasapeak Bay blue crabs really do swim up the James to Richmond in mid-late summer. Credit: Chris Hull

Cheasapeak Bay blue crabs really do swim up the James to Richmond in mid-late summer. Credit: Chris Hull

I’ll never forget, when the fishing wasn’t going so well, Hull diving into the shallows along the Pipeline with a jagged spear he’d fashioned from a stick and coming up with a Chesapeake Bay blue crab for us to use as bait. The scene taught me two things: 1) There is an amazing abundance of life on and in the James in downtown Richmond — even life, like the blue crab, that most people have no idea is there; and 2) Chris Hull is the ultimate river rat.

The former James River Outdoor Coalition president is an avid kayaker. He regularly posts paddle flicks of himself, his son and others on regionals creeks and rivers shot with his trusty GoPro. Hull shot the above video over the weekend in that same Pipeline area, the highlight reel from a few hours of snorkeling. He shot it using a GoPro Hero3+. He said the ideal time to snorkel the slow-water sections of the river (underneath the Nickel Bridge, around The Wetlands, the islands across from Pipeline, etc.) is when the high in the sky. The direct light allows you to see farther into the water. Any old snorkel setup will do, he said. But, he cautioned, if you choose the Pipeline area, “You ought to be a pretty good swimmer before you try it.”

Anyway, enjoy the video. And, FYI: Those are flathead catfish he comes right up to and, right on cue, a blue crab seen scurrying along the bottom at the end of the clip.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?