Mississippi’s most-popular fishing destination was dealt a winning hand in February, although it came at a grave cost to residents in low-lying areas of Jackson and other communities downstream on the Pearl River.
The rain event that led to flooding of houses and entire neighborhoods in Mississippi’s Capitol City in mid- to late February had a silver lining. It gave the 33,000-acre Barnett Reservoir a royal flush.
“It flushed out all that vegetation that had choked out thousands of acres of backwater on the upper river area of the reservoir,” said Gene Bishop, a local bass fisherman. “I have been able to get into some of the historically best backwater areas of the lake, places I haven’t seen in 15 to 20 years. I mean miles and miles of water now open to fishing, once the fish rediscover that habitat.”
The rainfall created the biggest of three high-water events since the start of the year. This one, which began around Feb. 10, created the second-highest river flow of record into Barnett Reservoir — 90,000 cubic feet per second.
It was enough that it flushed away about 20 years of vegetation growth that had wiped out some of the lake’s traditional bass and crappie hot spots.
“I don’t know how long it will take the fish to rediscover and start using those areas again, but I’m betting it won’t take long,” said Jimmy Carruth, a tournament regular. “A lot of the areas that are now open are historically some of the prime spawning areas upriver. It can only help improve the fishing on The Rez.”
Crappie fishermen were already reporting male crappie moving up for the prespawn into some of the areas.
“This is going to change a lot of fishing for crappie guys like me,” said Willie Long of Brandon. “When my daddy first taught me how to catch spawning crappie in the reservoir in the 70s and 80s, he took me upriver to backwater holes like Twin Sisters and Brown’s Lake and Brown’s Old River. After he died in 1998, and I got back from serving my country (U.S. Army), I couldn’t believe what had happened with all the vegetation. That hyacinth had basically taken all those old places away. I didn’t recognize it.
“I heard that all of that had changed, and I went and looked. Sure enough, all my dad’s old fishing holes are open again. I didn’t even recognize it, but my memory started returning the more I idled back up in there. I can’t wait to go in April and see if I can catch ’em in some of those spots Dad and I shared.”
Pelahatchie bay boating back in April
Barnett Reservoir officials say boating between the main lake at the Popular Pelahatchie Bay area will resume in April after new barriers are installed at the bridge over Pelahatchie Creek on Northshore Causeway.
The new barrier will be designed to block giant salvinia — the invasive plant that was found in the Bay and led to the bridge closure for the last 18 months — but will allow boats to move to and from the lake and bay.
Still operating under the emergency order involving the salvinia, officials said most of the bay’s north shoreline will remained closed to boating and fishing, and that no tournament fishing will be allowed in the Bay until further notice.