South Delta’s catastrophic flooding affects wildlife

How will deer in the South Delta be affected by this summer’s flooding?
How will deer in the South Delta be affected by this summer’s flooding?

When you’re worried about people’s lives and wellbeing, both certainly being impacted in the catastrophic backwater flooding that has plagued the South Delta for half of this year, it might seem tacky to discuss the flood’s impact on outdoor sports.

But understand, hunting and fishing is important to the very people hit hardest by the high water. Not only are hunting and fishing a big part of their lives, both have significant economic impact on their pocketbooks, as well as different communities.

“It has been terrible; it is terrible, and you can’t help but worry about how terrible it’s going to be in the long term,” said Jeff Terry, an avid hunter, fisherman and land manager from Eagle Lake Community about 20 miles north of Vicksburg. “We’re seeing wildlife stressed to the limits, from deer to turkey to alligators to … look the list is long and getting longer.

“The South Delta depends a lot on recreational tourism, from hunting lease fees to fishing trips. We’ve already been stressed due to CWD (chronic wasting disease) being found in the wild (deer) population, and now we see a lot of them basically starving. The Eagle Lake Community has already lost an entire fishing season on Eagle Lake, as well as Chotard and Albemarle.”

Wildlife officials are concerned and have taken a hands-on approach to supplemental feeding of stranded deer, while taking an understandable wait-and-see approach to fish.

Asian carp

“I know one impact I expect to see is the spread of more Asian carp (including the leaping silver carp) in the South Delta lakes,” said fisheries biologist Ryan Jones of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “We just don’t know right now, and until the water recedes and we can go look, we won’t know. It’s been six or seven months since we’ve been able get on the water in that region and we have no clue when we’ll be able to.”

Eagle Lake, which has mostly escaped the carp invasion of past floods, could be vulnerable this year.

“That’s just what we need,” said Larry Turner, a crappie-fishing enthusiast from Vicksburg who is usually a regular at Eagle Lake. “You can hardly run the river-connected waters now without protective gear, and a lot of our other inland waters like Wolf and Bee lakes near Yazoo City, Lake George over at Sartartia and the Yazoo and Sunflower rivers, have been full of flying carp since the flood of 2011. Eagle Lake was the exception.

“I hope we find a silver lining or two in the aftermath. All these waters in the impacted area have been closed to fishing since the winter, so the pressure has been off the fish. If they stayed home, like Eagle Lake’s great crappie staying in Eagle Lake, then boy, it ought to be great when everything returns to normal. At least give us that.”

No doubt, the flood’s impact on hunting and fishing in the South Delta will be a major story for years to come, but let’s not forget about the thousands of our fellow statesmen who are suffering horribly because of this catastrophic event.

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1195 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.