Gary Turner of Hattiesburg considers himself lucky that he is surrounded by at least a dozen public hotspots for bream, none of which are the slightest bit intimidating for him, his son and a canoe. It’s a mix of MDWFP state lakes and Pat Harrison Waterway District lakes.
“We catch a lot of fish, not always bream, and we have so many choices within an hour of home,” Turner said. “I’d put three or four of those lakes up against any in the state — Little Black Creek Water Park (Purvis), Prentiss Walker Lake (Mize) and Simpson Legion Lake (Magee/Mendenhall) — but that doesn’t mean I limit our options to those three.
“Shoot, there’s Flint Creek Water Park (Wiggins), Lake Mike Conner (Collins), Lake Bill Waller (Columbia) and Lake Perry (Beaumont). I like Paul B. Johnson State Park (Brooklyn), too, but it’s so big there’s a lot of ski boats and bigger craft, so I don’t go there as often as I’d like.”
Those eight choices are all top-notch bream lakes, but if Turner and other south Mississippi anglers don’t really have anything that most areas of Mississippi don’t.
Ray Robinson of Tupelo has just as an impressive list, where he takes his kayak for some solo trips.
“Man, where do I start?” he said. “Now that Lamar Bruce (Saltillo) has reopened, I’d probably start there. Once Trace Lake State Park’s lake is back online, I’d rate it No. 2.”
Robinson paused before continuing.
“Wait, you know what? I can’t rank either one of those above Tippah County Lake (Ripley), which is just as productive for bream and is probably about as pretty a lake as we have,” he said. “You’d think that would be enough but for shear numbers, I go to Elvis Presley Lake (Tupelo), and I also don’t have to leave my hometown to go to Tombigbee State Park (Tupelo). I don’t catch as many fish at Tombigbee, but it’s such a pretty, pleasant trip that I don’t care.
“I’ve also got Davis Lake (Houston) just off the Natchez Trace, Monroe Lake (Aberdeen) just reopened, and I can hit the smaller pools of the Tenn-Tom Waterway beginning below Bay Springs Lake all the way to Aberdeen.”
Both Turner and Robinson have a lot of secret honey holes, too, that their smaller watercraft allows easy access.
Turner likes creeks, including Black Creek, Red Creek and Okatoma Creek.
“If you’ve never gotten into a hive of red-bellied bream on a creek, then you wouldn’t understand,” he said. “Catching about 50 or 60 of those in one spot in a cool-water creek is what my son and I enjoy most on your trips. They aren’t as big as bluegill or redear, but man, they are the best-tasting fried fish you’ll ever eat. We scale ’em, gut ’em and cut off the heads and fry them whole like that. Then we eat them until there’s not one left on the platter.”
Robinson enjoys hitting the many small — mostly 60 acres or less — watershed lakes on national forest land.
“Do the research and find some near you,” he said. “The fishing is great. They don’t get much pressure. And they are some of the prettiest lakes you will ever find.”
Asked to name a few examples, Robinson declined.
“C’mon dude, you crazy or something,” he said. “Find your own .… seriously it’s not that hard. Contact your local national forest service office and ask.”