Northwest Mississippi is the gateway to the blues, but it’s also the gateway to the best crappie fishing in the nation.
Ask 100 crappie fishermen across the country to name the Top 5 best crappie lakes in the nation (as has often been done in many surveys) and I will bet large amounts of money that either Sardis or Granada, or both, will be included in those Top 5. And it is likely they would end up as Number One and Number Two.
But in Northwest Mississippi, besides Sardis and Grenada you’ll find Arkabutla, Enid and Lake Washington. Move a little south and you’ll find the famous Ross Barnett Reservoir. Odds are avid crappie anglers have heard of them all, or at least some. On most lakes in the country a 2-pound-plus crappie is something to write home about. In Northwest Mississippi they can sometimes be routine.
WHY IS IT SO GOOD?
So, what makes Northwest Mississippi water such an amazing crappie producer?
Larry Pugh, the Fisheries Bureau Director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) said, “It is all about good dirt [fertile soil]. These lakes are very productive. Also, those lakes were built for flood control, which means water levels fluctuate annually. A fall/winter drawdown concentrates forage and increases predation, which results in increased growth.”
Mina Thorgeson with the Ridgeland, Miss. Tourism Commission lives almost on the shore Ross Barnett. Thorgeson said, “The growing season is all year long. It stays warm enough to allow the baitfish to survive the winter. And the big fish are protected with 12-inch size limits and 15-crappie-per-day creel limit. There’s good spawning areas and lots of grassy areas to protect the fry after they hatch.”
It is all a recipe for incredible crappie fishing.
Of course, there are numerous crappie guides in the region, not too difficult to find via Google. But what about the DIY (Do It Yourself) crappie fishermen – what are your chances of visiting these lakes and tracking down 2-pound-plus slabs?
Bernard Williams with the Magnolia Crappie Club, said, “Excellent question. If the angler has the proper equipment, depth finders and lake map chips, it’s possible to catch fish without a guide. However, if time is a factor, I would employ a guide for the first day. A good pair of binoculars helps [for finding other crappie boats].
Pugh agreed saying, “Navigating the big reservoirs is usually not a problem. Finding fish typically means looking to see where the other crappie boats are fishing. And there are ALWAYS other crappie boats fishing. Booking a guide certainly offers advantages; most visitors now book a trip with a guide the first day or two of their trips to learn areas and techniques.”
WHEN SHOULD YOU GO?
Pugh says the lakes provide excellent fishing year around.
“Winter can be very good as lower water levels tend to concentrate fish on the main lake, usually relating to the main river channel,” he said.
But he added that HIS favorite time is spring.
“There is nothing like wading in the spring on Grenada Lake when the crappie are shallow. Fishing with one pole in the flooded backwaters reminds me of how we fished as kids.”
THINGS TO DO (BESIDES FISH)
It is very easy to spend several days in Northwest Mississippi and never touch on all the fun stuff, in addition to fishing. But here are some highlights.
Pugh says the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery and Visitor Education Center, located below Enid Dam, is a great family destination. The Center features a native habitat area, a 10,000-gallon aquarium, interactive exhibits, displays, artifacts, fishing rodeo pond, gift shop and gallery, and the World Record White Crappie.
Just a stone’s throw away from Arkabutla Lake you will find Tunica, Mississippi. Of course, there are plenty of thriving casinos if you want to gamble on something other than crappie fishing. But don’t go to Tunica without visiting the Gateway to the Blues Visitors Center and Museum. This rustic train depot, circa 1895, is a must-see attraction for all music lovers, telling the remarkable story of how The Blues was born and the role Tunica played in building the genre’s legacy.
Ridgeland, Miss., on the shores of Ross Barnett, boasts more than 150 restaurants, three major shopping areas and a Retail Trail of local retailers. Cyclers can enjoy more than 15 miles of multi-use trail along the Natchez Trace Parkway, a BMX track and mountain bike trails all within the city. The Bill Waller Craft Center is home to the Craftsman’s Guild and displays original pieces from artisans around the state along with demonstrations from featured artists. A visit to the two new museums, Mississippi Museum of History and Civil Rights Museum, would provide an educational experience for the family.
For more information, visit http://www.visitridgeland.com.