May is widely considered to be the best month for chasing bream, but die-hard panfisher anglers know that redear sunfish — aka chinquapin, shellcracker or just redear — move into their prespawn and spawning patterns much sooner than bluegill and other sunfish species that fall under the general colloquialism of “bream.”
Mississippi has some stellar shellcracker fishing in spots across the state, but none are better managed than in several of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ state lakes. Here’s a rundown of some of the top state lakes to visit this month if you’re looking for shellcrackers.
Tippah County Lake
Located in extreme northern Mississippi, not far from the Tennessee border, Tippah County Lake was built in 1972 as a soil-conservation lakes and opened for fishing in 1974.
Like all state lakes, Tippah County Lake is stocked with bass, crappie, bream and a few catfish. Jim Cutberth, the lake manager, said that, during the early spring, most anglers split their time fishing for bream, particularly redear sunfish, and crappie. A few bass fishermen will also visit the 145-acre lake.
“We do creel surveys throughout the year and we shock the lake every year in the fall, and our biologists use that information to see what the lake needs,” Cutberth said. “If it needs fish, we put them in. We fertilize the lake throughout the summer. In fact, this lake is better balanced to provide more fish caught per hour fishing than many of the state’s big reservoirs.”
David Berry, MDWFP project manager for state lakes, suggests that Tippah County anglers have reason to focus their efforts on shellcracker; the state-record shellcracker, a 3.33-pound fish,