Verifying reports of good bass fishing at Eagle Lake didn’t take long on a very warm, clear and windless summer morning.
First cast, first fish.
Second cast, second fish.
Third cast, first gar.
Fourth cast… oops, should have retied after the gar. Can’t say for sure what hit the swimming jig on that cast, because seconds after setting the hook, the line broke just above the knot, courtesy of the toothy beating it took from the gar.
Instead of wasting time digging out a new swimming jig, I simply picked up a rod with a lipless rattling crankbait and went right back to catching largemouth bass on the old oxbow lake. In the first 30 minutes of fishing, we hooked and released 10 bass from 2 to 3 pounds.
“It’s not supposed to be this easy, is it?” I asked my partner, bass fisherman Tony Johnson, the Vicksburg angler who had called to report his recent successes on Eagle Lake.
He just laughed.
“No, but then I’ve never seen fish jumping on the surface this early and this close to the boat ramp,” Johnson said. “This is almost like cheating. This is the first time I’ve ever caught a fish within 200 yards of here. Must be a school chasing shad.”
The pattern was similar to what Johnson and others had reported in June.
The school of largemouth was between two piers on the outside curve (Mississippi side) of the old oxbow that was once the main Mississippi River channel.
“Normally, we’re down around vegetation on the other side of Buck Chute or across the lake fishing topwater at sunrise, using either buzzbaits or frogs or Pop-Rs,” Johnson said. “Then, after the sun gets up, we start pitching the piers and the trees for bass. If we get a little cloud cover or a breezy day, then the areas between piers, like this, get hot. The bass move out of the piers and start chasing shad. Shallow crankbaits, swimming jigs or lipless crankbaits wear them out.”
We were in fact running to Buck Chute when I spotted the surface activity. Bass were busting shad, and the ruckus was easy to see from 100 yards away, even at 40 miles per hour.
Our first stop played out in 45 minutes, and we started checking on other patterns that had, reportedly, produced results.
* Shallow cover, near the island — Pitching jigs with crawfish trailers, worms and soft plastic jerkbaits around cypress trees and other cover, we picked up our biggest fish of the day — 5 ½ pounds — and 10 other fish in an hour. Senkos rigged whacky style were the ticket.
* Piers — As it warmed, we moved back to the deeper (Mississippi) side, and worked the piers with the same lures and were constantly catching fish. Johnson beat me, with his ability to skip his worm further under the piers. He even caught a 2-pound black crappie on his black and red-flake Senko.
Brothers Will and Tim Thomas of Jackson were hitting the piers, too, and by 10 a.m. were headed back to the launch.
“We’ve caught between 30 and 40 this morning, including about 10 or 15 on topwater in those pads above (Garfield’s Landing, and Buch Chute),” Will Thomas said. “They were hitting the Scum Dog frog this morning real good.
“We spent the rest of the morning running the piers and found a good pattern on spinnerbaits and soft plastic jerkbaits around the shallow pilings. We started out fishing worms on the deep ends, but it was slow. We moved up and started catching them in 4 feet of water around nearly every pier on the deep side of the lake.”
Our total catch was about the same, 30 to 40, and we were back at the launch at 10:30. It was already 92 degrees and felt like 100.
It is good to see Eagle Lake productive again, which biologists say is a credit to restocking efforts. Game fish like bass and crappie require annual stocking to maintain quality fishing at this particular lake.
“If we stock them, they do good,” said John Skains, a fisheries biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “If we quit stocking, they go away. Crappie and bass simply can’t survive with natural spawning, but, thanks to the flood last year, I think we did see more spawning success than normal.”
Skains said the lake receives about 200,000 Florida bass fingerlings a year from the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery at Enid.
“We’re lucky if we see half of them survive, but we’re finding that the survivors just take off and grow quickly,” Skains said.