Boat rentals under new management

Published 7:55 pm Saturday, March 17, 2012

A company with nearly 70 years of experience in the business has taken over the boat rental concession at Lake Cohoon and Lake Meade.

Culpepper Boats has operated in the Port Norfolk community of Portsmouth for 68 years. Its new Suffolk location, located at the end of a driveway that turns from Pitchkettle Road, brings some of the family members involved in the business back home to Suffolk.

Jason Stanley, of Dublin, Va., holds a 6.5-pound, 22-3/4” largemouth bass that he caught Thursday on a private pond in Suffolk. He brought the fish to the check station at the Lake Cohoon Fishing Station to be weighed and measured. The length qualified the fish as a citation catch.

Daryl Culpepper grew up in the Bennett’s Creek area, attended Suffolk schools and fished in Suffolk waters from the time he was young. Taking over the concession at the lakes when it suddenly became available was a natural step, his wife Danette said.

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“As kids and teens, we bass-fished here,” she said this week. In fact, the pair went fishing for their first date, her father, “Big” Ernie Swain recalled, laughing.

Swain helps out around the shop at what the family is calling “Culpepper’s on the Lake.”

He scoops bait for a woman who’s come to fish from the shore of Lake Cohoon ($5 for the day) and then steps outside to weigh a citation largemouth bass brought to the check station by a fisherman who’s just spent part of the afternoon fishing in a private pond nearby. Danette then helps the visitor fill out the paperwork for his citation.

A couple of private fishing skiffs sit on trailers while their owners grab supplies from the store or just trade stories in the parking lot.

Daryl and Danette Culpepper visited the Lake Cohoon Fishing Station a couple of months ago to pick up some minnows. That’s when they learned that the facility was on the verge of closing and decided to look into taking it over.

“We’re already in this industry,” Danette said.

Since taking over the station less than a month ago, the Culpepper family already has made a few improvements to the popular public space. They’ve added handicap-accessible picnic tables. They’ve also added more rental boats, including kayaks.

“We’ve got boat rentals, bait, tackle and concessions here,” Danette said. “And all the fishing talk you want to talk.”

And when they’ve left the small shop to grab their fishing poles and hit the water, fishermen leaving the Lake Cohoon Fishing Station have the choice of fishing either Lake Cohoon or Lake Meade, either of which can be accessed from the parking lot.

Each of the two lakes has its own personality, the Culpeppers say, and each has a bounty of fish.

Cohoon boasts largemouth bass, crappie, bream, shellcrackers and white perch. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries states on its website that 510-acre Lake Cohoon “is consistently one of the district’s top producers of big fish.”

Horseshoe-shaped Lake Meade covers about 512 acres and also has largemouth bass, but there are also catfish, rainbow perch, yellow perch, hybrid striped bass, northern pike and bluegill there for the catching.

The fishing station and boat ramps at the head of both lakes are open from sunrise to sunset. For more information, call 397-4215.