In late April, 37 tornadoes ravaged parts of Mississippi and Alabama, wiping out whole communities and towns and killing hundreds of people. And, now, in early May we begin to see the forecasts and maps of the impending record floods for Mississippi's River towns and almost the entire Mississippi Delta.

What do these natural disasters have to do with crappie fishing? Everything, if you ask the people in places like Wolf Lake, Eagle Lake, Lake Ferguson, Tunica Lake and countless other smaller crappie lakes and waterways.

As trivial in the grand scheme of things as it seems, the first round of these natural disasters - the April tornadoes - was a factor in our April 30 Magnolia Crappie Tournament turnout. Some of our teams were unfortunately dealing with bigger issues, like missing roofs, crop damage and providing emergency relief, than making a fishing event. So our Barnett tournament the last day of April brought our smallest crowd of the season - 32 boats.

And, now, the coming record floods are making all of us who love to crappie fish pay attention. Of course we're first concerned about the people who live in these flooded areas. Losing a home or a business rates so far up the priority scale above recreation that it seems impolite and inappropriate to discuss the two at the same time.

Just know this, sportsmen tend to be some of the people who help first. Generally, we understand the layout of the problems when it comes to things like flooding because we've been there on our 4-wheelers or in our boats when conditions and things weren't flooded.

Indeed, several of our MCC bunch have houses, cabins and permanent camps in places that are currently under water. Lots of you readers of Mississippi Sportsman have deer camps, duck clubs, managed game areas and other assets, which are greatly impacted by the current record flood.

And this record flood is not a quick hitter. If you do a little research on previous years' floods, you'll see that in the past floods closest to the current record level took 4 to 6 months to recede. Hey, that's no small inconvenience - that's a major
sentence.

Please know, if you're one who is directly impacted by these current catastrophes, that many of us are helping in any and every way we can with relief efforts directed to those in need of help.

Here is a current (early May) listing of the things I personally have noted that the Flood of 2011 has or will impact that are directly related to crappie fishing:

 

• The North Mississippi COE reservoirs - Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid, Grenada - are currently at peak level or headed that way in a big hurry. As I write this, one of the lakes MCC fished last fall, Arkabutla, is about half a foot from going over the emergency runoff at the dam.

 

• Lake Ferguson, Greenville, is above flood stage and still headed higher to record levels. Parts of Greenville will be flooded. Lakeside homes and businesses will be wiped out.

 

• Eagle Lake and the Chotard Lake area are already flooded. And we're not just talking about water in the parking lot, folks. Chotard Landing Resort and Laney's Landing and all those campsites and businesses are gone or under 10 to 12 feet of water. At Eagle, only a few of the highest-built homes are forecast to miss the worst part of this record flood. How sick a feeling we all have for our friends who live there or who have homes, cabins and camps located in Warren, Sharkey and Issaquena counties.

 

• Wolf Lake, located at least 80 miles from the Mississippi River, has disappeared under the floodwaters. From the Governor's place on Wolf to the lakeside businesses, including farmers of row crops and catfish, all are devastated. I just got off the phone with a friend and customer who is in the catfish-processing business in Yazoo County. My call was one to offer my assistance with moving equipment and other assets before the 5 to 6 feet of standing water inundates his plant and his fish ponds within the next few days.

How does Wolf Lake and Yazoo County get flooded by the Mississippi 80 miles away? Of course, as a sportsman you already know the answer. The Yazoo River can't flow into the flooded Mississippi, and so it backs up and runs out of its banks into the low Delta ground west of the hills, or what most people call the Delta Ridge.

 

• And, I know I haven't mentioned many other impacted communities and counties. Forgive me. Trust me. We are all praying for the best for everyone.

 

Some of us crappie fishermen can't help but wonder and forecast how the fishing will be post-flood. One major concern, and, again, I realize this could be considered by some to be trivial or even inappropriate considering the total picture, is the invasion of those dreaded Asian (or flying) carp that we've already seen in river-connected oxbows into inland lakes and rivers.

I know the Mississippi Game and Fish people have concerns in these matters, because I've discussed these possibilities with local fisheries people. It is highly probable that these non-native, lake-killing nuisances will show up after the flood in lakes where they haven't been seen yet.

And given the history of how long it takes flood waters to recede from these areas, we know that lakes like Wolf, Eagle and Ferguson will be off limits for months. As responsible sportsmen, we know not to carry our boats into lakes where our very presence and our boat wakes would cause damage to property and lakeside homes. We will respect those who have the most to lose, and, again, many of us will help in every way we can. That's just what we do when things like this current catastrophe come.