Delta lakes’ flooding likely to impact crappie fishing

Flooding in the Delta and northern Mississippi might cause fishermen to change tactics and locations for spawning slabs this spring.
Flooding in the Delta and northern Mississippi might cause fishermen to change tactics and locations for spawning slabs this spring.

As residents of Mississippi’s South Delta face incredible hardships due to backwater flooding, fishermen who would normally be lining up at the areas many lakes for the crappie spawn are also impacted.

The Mississippi River and its tributaries and many oxbows remain off limits to recreational boating for safety reasons and lessen the impact on stressed residents.

Mississippi’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks had to close the river, its many tributaries and oxbow lakes to recreational boating in March, with the crest of rising water still weeks away.

Lake Washington at Glen Alan, a popular destination for crappie fishermen across the country, was among those impacted, as were Eagle, Chotard and Albermarle lakes near Vicksburg, and Wolf and Bee lakes near Yazoo City.

“I know you’re concerned about fishing,” said Phil Barnes of Vicksburg, whose family has a camp and second home at Eagle Lake, “but there’s a lot of people over here who are worried about everything they own. It’s that dire. It’s really hard to tell lakes from farmland now.”

Flooding will deliver another blow to the inland oxbows and streams, with another “restocking” of leaping Asian silver carp migrates in from the Mississippi River. Those that don’t return to the Big Muddy when the water falls will become permanent residents of the oxbows.

“After the 2011 flood, we needed hard hats and face masks to fish at Wolf Lake,” Barnes said. “My partner took a 10-pounder to the noggin’ at Albermarle Lake that nearly took his head off. This isn’t good at all.”

Water levels at Mississippi’s four major Mississippi flood-control reservoirs — Grenada, Enid, Sardis and Arkabutla — are higher than normal, lots higher, which will undoubtedly impact crappie fishing this spring. Grenada Lake, for example, the consensus No. 1-rated lake in the world for trophy crappie, was 10½ feet above normal on March 10. That will surely mean the traditional spawning grounds will be too deep for fish to use this year.

“What it means is we’ll be doing a lot of wading in a lot of different areas,” said Ronnie Thomas of Grenada. “When the water goes up, you just have to go with it, and in a lot of areas it will be in brush that you can’t get a boat into, and if you can get a boat in it, you certainly can’t get around in it. The alternative is to park the boat, put on your waders and get in the water. The fish are going to spawn, come hell or high water. You just have to go and find them.”

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1190 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.