The first Delta lakes that come to mind when one thinks of great bream fishing are probably the oxbow lakes along the Mississippi River. Who can argue that Horn, Tunica, Flower and Beulah are world-class bream lakes?

These old Mississippi runs can produce enough bream to feed small countries, and catching up to 100 pounds per acre per year in these waters is actually considered "good management" by some biologists. If you haven't done the math, 100 pounds per acre on 5,000-acre Tunica Lake comes out to 250 tons of fish!

While these lakes may be the "best of the best" when it comes to Delta bream fishing, there are many other lakes that also produce excellent bream opportunities.

 

Lake Ferguson

Located on the west bank of the city of Greenville, Ferguson was abandoned by the Big Muddy in the mid-20th century as the river shifted its course to the west. Left behind on the Mississippi side of the current channel is a lake nearly 10 miles in length. The levee blocks entry from the river on the north end, but the south runout is kept open to accommodate the many barges and tugs that come in to the Port of Greenville for repairs and to transfer grain, gravel, fuel, scrap iron and assorted other goods.

The Arkansas-Mississippi state line runs basically down the middle of most of the lake. Archer Island, located entirely in Arkansas and on the west side of Ferguson, sits directly across from the Greenville City Front. When the water is high, the timber on Archer will become inundated, and anglers can find bream bedding in the shallows inside the tree line there. Lake Archer is also hidden among the trees, and those who know how to find their way into this hidden oasis will usually fill their coolers with fat bluegills. As the water level drops, water exits the south end of Lake Archer, and this area is a bream hotspot.

As summer wanes, the water level in the river usually ranges from 10-30 feet on the Greenville gauge, and the fishing then is concentrated in the willows on the upper end of Ferguson and along the eastern bank. The numerous barges tied off to the bank can provide excellent areas to find bluegills in the heat of the summer.

Active and inactive casino boats also provide a refuge for bream, as do the dozens of pilings and piers scattered along nearly 7 miles of bank from Warfield Point Park to upper Lake Ferguson Road. There are also a few sunken barges along the east bank of Ferguson that provide more man-made structure where bream hunters can find plenty of targets. Several sandbars can be found between the City Front and Warfield Point, and these sandy areas, lined with willows, can be great fishing locations.

Jonas Daniels, who owns Amoco Food Shop in Belzoni, has been fishing Lake Ferguson and other Delta lakes for nearly 35 years.

"A cousin of mine from New York was down here visiting me years ago," Daniels said. "He had never been fishing, and we headed over to Ferguson. It was the middle of July, and it was about 105 degrees. We were traveling up the lake, and for some reason we stopped in the middle of the lake near a floating log. I decided to drop a cricket-tipped hook near that log and see what happened.

"We caught one bream after the other at that log over the next couple of hours. When we finally ran out of crickets, we had about 150 bluegills in the boat. It was my cousin's first fishing trip ever, and that city boy from New York had just witnessed one of the best bream fishing trips I had ever experienced."

Daniels says the bream spawn usually kicks off with the full moon in May, and will peak with each full moon in following months. Early in the season, when Ferguson is high, he recommends fishing in about 3 feet of water in the timber on Archer Island. Later in the year, when the water is lower during July and August, Daniels suggests that anglers try casting a hook around the thousands of willow stobs in the upper lake or along the east bank near Greenville.

"I like to fish in 8 to 10 feet of water on the city side when the water is lower in the summer," says Daniels. "I take my hook and flip it right near the bank, then let it settle down the slope until it comes to rest near the dropoff. You can usually catch a bream waiting in that cooler water near the dropoff."

Other anglers in Lake Ferguson prefer fishing in the shade of the barges tied off to the bank. It is not uncommon to find boats tied underneath the casino plank walk or between sets of barges north of the City Front. While the shade provides relief from the heat for the angler, it also provides relief for the bream.

Another added benefit to fishing near the barges is that it usually keeps the anglers away from the constant wake of the pleasure boaters in the lake. Just beware that windblown waves can get pretty intense between the barges and will pound a boat that is tied too close.

 

Lake Bolivar

This ancient Mississippi River oxbow lies just west of Highway 1 at the Bolivar-Washington County line, about 12 miles north of Greenville. It is approximately 1,200 acres in size and has an average depth of only 5 feet.

Bolivar has rebounded from poor fish populations in the 1970s and '80s. Reports from the mid to late 1980s indicate that Bolivar was a dead lake. Efforts by local farmers, conservationist groups and biologists have turned the fishing around, and conditions have improved drastically.

Thousands of cypress trees line the banks, and the fishing can be phenomenal among the many roots and knees that surround these trees. There is one public boat launch on Bolivar, just north of Scott on Highway 1. There is ample opportunity for the bank fisherman at Bolivar, so long as one heeds the "No Trespassing" signs and steers clear of those areas.

The downside to fishing at Bolivar is that the shallow conditions and proximity to agricultural fields makes the water very muddy at times. The lake will clear from north to south, and then the aquatic vegetation tends to get thick.

The upside to Bolivar is that there are plenty of bream in the lake, according to fisheries biologist Garry Lucas, although they tend to be smaller than fish found in Ferguson.

 

Lake Washington

Lake Washington in southern Washington County has to be one of the most versatile lakes in the Delta. Aside from being one of the most beautiful Delta oxbows, with groves of submerged cypress and beautiful homes, 5,000-acre Lake Washington has a diverse fish population.

Anglers from across the nation trek to Washington to partake in the spring crappie bonanza, and catfish anglers from across the Magnolia State fill their boats with relative ease here.

After the white perch frenzy dies down in late spring, local bream anglers flock to Washington to enjoy the fantastic bluegill action the lake provides. One only has to sit for a while at Daniels' Food Shop in Belzoni to see that anglers from across the state pass through Belzoni on their way to Lake Washington.

"Lake Washington is probably the best bream lake in this area," said Daniels. "The bream seem to be making a comeback in Lake Washington and in several other Delta lakes. Anywhere you can find some structure next to the bank, or a bottom with a lot of sand and gravel, you can find bream in Lake Washington."

Daniels recommends fishing the shallows on the western side of the lake, in the open holes among the cypresses where the bottom is sandy, and near the Highland Club toward the northern end of the lake. He suggests fishing in water that is 1 1/2 to 2 feet in depth, and placing your bait 6 inches off the bottom. As with crappie fishing, bream tend to favor the shade that the cypress trees offer in Washington.

"I look for any place that gravel can be seen along the bank," says Daniels. "Then I know that the bottom in that spot is going to be sandy and the bream will bed there. A good bream bed will usually produce year after year, unless it is overfished or the bream are preyed heavily upon by bass or flathead catfish."

 

Little Eagle

Little Eagle Lake in Humphreys County is located between Belzoni and Tchula on Highway 12E. Heralded as one of the most-scenic Delta lakes by Lucas, Little Eagle is a beautiful oasis of clear water, Spanish moss and cypress and tupelo gum trees among the fertile farm land and swamps of the eastern Delta.

Located just three miles or so as the anhinga flies from Bee Lake in Holmes County, Little Eagle is a diamond in the rough among Delta lakes. Runoff from adjacent farm fields keeps other local oxbows the clarity of a glass of chocolate milk, but Little Eagle remains relatively clear year-round. Even after nearly 14 inches of rain in as many days during the spring of 2009, Little Eagle remained virtually silt-free. Runoff that enters the lake is filtered through several thousand acres of wetlands and swamps, which is the key to keeping Little Eagle clear.

As a result, this lake enjoys a large population of black crappie, as well as redear sunfish, both of which seem to prefer clearer water than do white crappie and bluegills.

"If I were going to recommend to anyone a lake where they could catch redear, I would send them to Little Eagle," says Lucas. "They aren't going to find big 10-inch bream like they might on the big river lakes, but as far as quantity of bream, and the beauty of the lake, Little Eagle is a great lake to fish. The water is clear, there is plenty of structure, and the lake is just beautiful."

Anglers will find more structure than they know what to do with in Little Eagle. The numerous blowdowns and floating logs would fool one into thinking a tornado had just passed through the area. At times, these logjams can wreak havoc on anglers who might find themselves trapped in a forest of tupelo and cypress trees on the ends of the lake. There is plenty of structure, shade and floating vegetation to fish in Little Eagle.

Even if you don't catch a mess of fish in Little Eagle, you will not leave disappointed if you are out for a relaxing day in nature. You are liable to see dozens of species of swamp birds, turtles, snakes, lizards and mammals not normally seen in other Delta lakes. Anglers are also reminded that they are not at the top of the food chain in Little Eagle. Not all "logs" are logs.