There’s a saying in the U.S. Army that you can tell a soldier is lying if he starts his story with, “This ain’t no #@!%.” That’s why my military intelligence started tingling like Spidey sense when Trace State Park Lake Ranger Jeff Rosamond began telling me how good the bream fishing was in this 600-acre lake located near Tupelo.
Being the fine southern gentleman that he is, Rosamond didn’t swear while he insisted that Trace Lake has given up 2 1/4-pound readear bream, but he did routinely fall back on telling me that he wasn’t exaggerating about how good the bream fishing is in this lake.
Apparently, there are lots of folks who know Rosamond is telling the truth about Trace Lake. Take, for example, the group of anglers who migrate south from Michigan every May to exclusively bream fish Trace Lake for two weeks.
Then you’ve got the group from Illinois and the group from Missouri who do the same thing. Would any of these angers really drive so far for the last 15 to 20 years to hope they get a bite?
"We’re known for being a bream lake," Rosamond said. "Lots of typical bluegill that go anywhere from 8 to 12 ounces apiece, but what we’re known for is our readear. Chinquapin, shellcrackers, strawberries — whatever you want to call them. This lake is full of them."
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool bream fisherman and you aren’t familiar with Trace State Park Lake, perhaps it’s time you become acquainted. On the surface, the lake probably won’t impress you as much more than a molehill.
In fact, Rosamond says the lake is considered a brushpile lake because of its lack of fish-holding cover. There is some plainly seen standing timber in the west side of the lake that does attract fish and fishermen, and some grass shows up during summer, but for bream anglers it’s an open-water affair.
"A couple years back, we had a gentleman from Tupelo who donated some pea gravel and his time to help us make some pea gravel beds in the lake," Rosamond said. "And on the east side of the lake, we have a roadbed — an old county road that basically they did not touch when they flooded the area. It’s the prime bream spot on the whole lake."
This submerged roadbed actually runs north and south kind of diagonally across the easternmost finger that parallels Access Road. Yardage wise, it runs maybe 300 yards, and it’s probably only 15-feet wide in most spots.
Since this roadbed isn’t marked on the water, Rosamond suggested anglers may have to look for it with their electronics to pinpoint where it lies, but finding the general area isn’t nearly as intricate.
"Just come by and talk to us at the office, and we’ll point you in the right direction," Rosamond offered. "But to be honest, there will already be a bunch of boats sitting there. It’s almost as if you have to have a reservation to fish it."
Although the submerged roadbed is a popular spot, the good thing about Trace State Park Lake, and this is no exaggeration, is that in just about every cove and on every point is a bream bed.
A general rule of thumb that Rosamond said can work wonders in finding piles of redears is to idle toward a point and start looking for the honeycomb pattern of craters that indicate the presence of a bream bed.
"You start looking there on a point, and you’re going to find a bream bed," he insisted. "That’s how the the lake is. It’s legendary for that. It’s not just the roadbed that they’re on. Every cove and every point — and normally they’re big ones."
How big are they? You’ve already heard Rosamond profess that Trace State Park Lake has produced redears up to 2 1/4 pounds. And that’s not merely hearsay passed between anglers at the ramp. Rosamond has seen and scaled these fish himself.
"Now we don’t get many like that," he added. "Probably anywhere from three to five a year that scale around 2 1/4. But normally our big readers run anywhere from 10 to 15 inches. And you’re 15-inchers are normally close to 2 pounds."
Rosamond believes the bream get so big because of a combination of the age of the lake and the amount of pressure it gets. Whereas most folks don’t want anything to do with fishing pressure, Rosamond relishes it.
"The more you take out, the bigger our fish are going to get," he explained. "Think about a bream bed with a bunch of little ones. When that cricket hits the water all you’ll catch is those little fish because they’ll be the first ones to your bait. The more fish we take out, the more food you leave for the other fish, and the bigger and bigger they get."
And anglers fishing Trace State Park Lake don’t have any problems taking copious amounts of bream from the lake. When you have anglers from Michigan taking home 3,000 fish after one trip, other migratory anglers taking just as many and the 100-bream limits that the locals take home, you can see why some years the numbers may be down while the size of the bream goes up.
"And this is like an every week thing," Rosamond said. "But it’s good for the lake, and that’s why we turn around the next year and are just as strong. We have good bedding process, yet we have a good takeaway, too. I know we’re supposed to take so many pounds out of here, and we do that — no doubt in my mind."
The yin and yang of fishing being cyclical in nature, Trace State Park Lake admittedly had a down year last year in the estimation of Rosamond. Anglers caught big fish, but the numbers just weren’t there.
However, just this January, Rosamond talked to an angler leaving the lake who had a 100-bream limit of some very fine fish. He caught them in 20 feet of water back when the surface temperature was as cold as it had been all winter long.
Assuming the mild winter in North Mississippi continues on through March, anglers should find that the fishing for the big redears kicks off a little earlier than normal.
Although the first moon in May is typically when most anglers hit the lake, a surface temperature close to 65 degrees will push tons of big redears on the beds by late April.
"It looks like they’ll be already fanning in April as long as we don’t get a cold March," Rosamond said in late February. "Here it is almost 80 degrees, and it’s still February. The surface temperature was 55 the last time I went out, so it doesn’t have far to go."
As long as heavy rains don’t stain the lake, past experience has proven to Rosamond that anglers will be able to see bottom in as deep as 10 feet of water. With this kind of clarity, anglers should easily be able to spot the bream beds on the roadbed just about all the way across it.
Even if the water is too deep to actually spot the fish on the beds, as long as you can see the craters you’ll be in good shape. And there’s no need to fish anywhere else other than right on top of the beds.
Lots of anglers fish crickets or mealworms under corks, but Rosamond pointed out that one of the best ways to catch fish off of the beds is to fish them with a tightline presentation just kind of crawled through the beds.
"That’s a pretty common way to catch them," he said. "What we normally do is use a 1/32-ounce lead jighead threaded with a cricket or mealworm. Just throw it out there and kind of drag it on the bottom with an ultralight rod and reel.
"It’s not uncommon to catch your limit of bream fishing like this. Mainly a mix of bluegill and chinquapin, but the earlier you get there the more chinquapin you catch because they get in there first."
If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t want to believe the hype and just has to see things with your own eyes, Rosamond invited you to come fish Trace State Park Lake this spring. He said you could even call him at the park office (662-489-2958) to get the most recent scoop on where the bream are and what they’re biting on.
"You going to leave thinking we manage this lake for bream," Rosamond said, "but it’s not anything we do. I think it’s something that our guests do. They manage it by taking them out. I feel like that’s why it’s been so productive over the years."