Barnett Reservoir’s Pelahatchie Bay reopens to boats May 14

Pelahatchie Shore Park boat ramp will reopen to the public when a ban on boating in the Pelahatchie Bay area of Barnett Reservoir is partially lifted May 14.
Pelahatchie Shore Park boat ramp will reopen to the public when a ban on boating in the Pelahatchie Bay area of Barnett Reservoir is partially lifted May 14.

Boating restricted to south side of channel, only one ramp open

Fishermen will get their first casts in over six months on one of the state’s most popular fishing holes Tuesday (May 14) when the Pelahatchie Bay area of Barnett Reservoir reopens to boating on a limited basis, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District announced.

“It’s been a long time, hopefully long enough for the bass to have forgotten what lures look like,” said Jimmy Reynolds of Brandon. “We missed the crappie spawn, but that’s OK. That just means more fish next year.”

The Bay has been closed to public boating since mid October as PRVWSD, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and other aquatic vegetation experts have battled an outbreak of giant salvinia, a dangerous invasive plant that was located on the Bay’s north shore.

What will be open

Boating will only be allowed south of the main boat channel for most of Pelahatchie Bay, and only one ramp will be open, during the first phase of reopening. Reservoir officials say they will continue to monitor the plant with the MDWFP in the coming weeks and, depending on the results, could expand the boating opportunities.

But low lake levels will remain, according to PRVWSD’s general manager John Sigman. The plant has been contained to the north shore, and well over 90 percent has been eradicated, and the rest is high, dry and hopefully dying.

“Our aquatic vegetation experts have told us that their No. 1 recommendation is holding the lake at around 296 (feet above mean sea level) to keep water off the infested areas,” he said. “At that level, none of the giant salvinia is in the water, meaning it’s drying and dying as well as being completely contained since it can’t float away or be picked up by boats.

“Basically, our experts suggested that we had two choices: raise the lake level and keep the Bay closed to boating, or keep it low and allow some limited boating access in the Bay. The Board chose to allow recreational boating.”

The north shore will be open to boating beginning at the mouth of Spring Branch (west end of Fox Bay), to include all backwaters of Pelahatchie Creek east of Spring Branch to the edge of PRVWSD property south of Mississippi Highway 25.

The Northshore Causeway Bridge will remain closed indefinitely. No travel between the main lake and Pelahatchie Bay will be allowed.

Pelahatchie Shore Park boat ramp

For this first phase of reopening, only the Pelahatchie Shore Park boat ramp will be open, allowing PRVWSD to closely monitor and inspect boats prior to launch and after leaving the water. It will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and a cleaning station will be located at the ramp to help boaters clean their watercraft.

All other ramps in Pelahatchie Bay will remain closed for the time being.

No launching of any kind of watercraft, including kayaks, canoes and other self- or wind-propelled boats, will be allowed at any location of Pelahatchie Bay other than Pelahatchie Shore Park, except those moored at homes. All types of craft must be inspected upon leaving the water, unless they are to be stored at a shoreline home.

Sigman said that the MDWFP will continue to monitor the Bay for giant salvinia, and to apply herbicides as needed. MDWFP and other experts will provide the PRVWSD Board of Directors with periodic updates so that modifications to boating regulations can be considered.

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1170 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.