Lake Jeff Davis set to reopen

Biologists' samplings at Jeff Davis Lake indicate a healthy population of bluegill, along with redear and bass. The lake reopens to youth on Saturday and to the general public on Wednesday.

State lake reopens May 18 for youths, May 22 for the public; great bream and bass fishing expected

Having Lake Jake Davis reopen after three years of renovation is like welcoming back an old friend, one who comes bearing bountiful gifts.It has a “soft” opening Saturday (May 18) for children ages 15 and under, and reopens for everyone on Wednesday (May 22).

Long a jewel of the state lakes system operated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the 100-acre reservoir near Prentiss was known as one of the best bream-fishing holes around.

“You will not have to wait long to get back in on that kind of action, either,” said David Berry, the agency’s state lakes coordinator. “When we did our latest fish sampling, we found Jeff Davis was already supporting redear and bluegill up to a pound.

“That’s the kind of production we’re used to from the lake, and we are extremely happy that after the renovation and restocking it is still doing it — and not only with bream but also bass.”

It will likely be the Florida largemouth that dominates the news from Jeff Davis’ reopening, at least for a year or two. Whenever the MDWFP reopens a restocked lake, the bass fishing explodes, with the original stocking class thriving for several years.

“I’m sure that the bass will get a lot of attention, especially on opening day,” said Ron Garavelli, the chief of fisheries. “That’s always the case because fishermen are casting at fish that have never seen a lure.”

“Stupid fish,” is what avid bass angler Rob Doherty of Hattiesburg calls them. “Imagine a lake full of fish that don’t know what a spinnerbait or a buzzbait or a crankbait or a plastic worm is, or that they are to be feared.

“It’s hilarious. And being a 100-acre lake, it’s not like they can hide too much. You put enough boats out there — and there’s always a crowd on opening day and for the first few weeks — and bass are going to be caught. I just hope people will understand that we need to protect these fish and release them carefully so we see this lake reach its potential years from now.”

MDWFP officials are making sure some of the biggest, fastest-growing bass will survive, and won’t have to worry about over-population problems. Berry said the lake is reopening with a 16- to 20-inch slot limit on largemouth.

“All fish measuring between 16 and 20 inches must be immediately released,” Berry said. “There will be a 15-bass daily limit, but only one of those can be over 20 inches.

“We’re making sure that we are giving fish a good chance of reaching maturity, and we are encouraging people to take some of the smaller bass home. I know a lot of people are into catch and release, but we need some of those smaller fish taken out to reduce the pressure on the forage base.”

Berry also said Jeff Davis Lake offers a lot of quality bank-fishing opportunities, along with several piers.

“During renovation, we put a lot of fish-attracting cover in the lake, including gravel for bream beds, and lot of it was put where it would help bank fishermen,” he said. “We also put a lot of cover within easy reach from the piers.

On May 18, participating children must be accompanied by a licensed adult, 21 years of age or older. The adult can participate in all phases of fishing except one — catching.

“We are fairly lenient on that, in that we will let the adult cast for a youngster and then hand the pole over to the child,” Berry said. “They can bait the hook, take the fish off. We just don’t want to see an adult standing there reeling in fish if the child is not participating.

“We enjoy seeing a parent with a young child in their lap, with both holding the pole. It’s that kind of experience we’re looking for, hoping it will instill a love of fishing with the child.”

On May 22, when the lake opens to the general public, the gates will open at 6 a.m. and boats can launch. Officials are expecting the usual crowd, and Berry said there are a few steps fishermen can take in advance to make it go smoothly.

“We always have a lot of boats lined up hours in advance, and we know that’s going to be the case at Jeff Davis,” he said. “One thing that will make it go better for everybody is to have everything ready when you get there and get through the gates, and that means to have everybody’s license ready to show and have the money ready to pay the entry fees.”

The fee to launch is $7, and includes fishing for the boat owner. Each additional angler must pay the daily fishing fee, which is the same for bank fishing — $5 for ages 16 to 64; $3 for ages 65 and over or disabled pay $3. Children 15 and under never pay to fish.

Jeff Davis Lake is located about three miles south of Prentiss off Highway 42. A map of the lake showing some of the fish attractors and bank fishing opportunities can be here.

Jeff Davis Lake Records
• Largemouth bass — 11 pounds.
• Crappie — 3 pounds, 8 ounces.
• Redear — 2 pounds, 7 ounces.
• Bluegill — 2 pounds.
• Catfish — 27 pounds.

State Lake Daily Fishing Fees
• Boat launch, fishing for owner — $7.
• Fishing, ages 16 to 64 — $5
• Fishing, age 65 and over — $3.
• Fishing, disabled — $3.
• Fishing, youth ages 15 and under — free.

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 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.

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