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Conservation Corner: July 23, 2001

Fish Your National Forests
by James L. Cummins

When it comes to fishing, we very seldom think of our National Forests because they usually come to mind when we want to go squirrel, deer or turkey hunting, go for a hike or just enjoy viewing wildlife.

However, our National Forests should not be overlooked when it comes to fishing. The National Forests in Mississippi contain more than 75 lakes and ponds totaling 2,700 acres and over 1,400 miles of rivers and streams, all suitable for fishing.

Due in part from the leadership of Rick Dillard, the Fish and Wildlife Program Manager for Mississippi National Forests, they have pursued an aggressive program to improve lakes for fishing. I have known Rick, a fisheries biologist by training, for over 15 years and I know of his persistence and dedication to doing a good job.

Almost 20 lakes have received a complete renovation. More than 15 miles of shoreline were deepened to improve bank angler access. Over 250 gravel spawning beds and almost 150 fish attractors were placed to improve structure. Recently, 13 boat ramps and 96 barrier-free fishing piers were constructed to improve angler access. To improve water quality, over 1,500 tons of lime were placed.

Mississippi's six national forests are located throughout the state and are easily accessible; these forests include Bienville, Delta, Homochitto, Holly Springs and Tombigbee.

The 178,000 acre Bienville National Forest is about one hour east of Jackson off 1-20 near Forest. The Leak and Strong River in this forest are excellent for canoeing.

The 60,000 acre Delta National Forest is located in Sharkey County, about 30 minutes north of Vicksburg. It contains many lakes with the largest being 30 acres and it provides good fishing.

Homochitto National Forest contains 180,000 acres and is located east of Natchez. It contains only three lakes, although a large one is being constructed. The Homochitto River and several clear, sandy streams provide excellent fishing for spotted bass.

The 501,000 acre DeSoto National Forest is located south of Hattiesburg and north of Gulfport and Biloxi. It contains several lakes including the 250-acre Turkey Fork. This forest is my favorite for canoeing. Excellent fishable streams include Black Creek, Big and Little Biloxi Rivers, Red Creek and the famous Black Creek.

The 147,000 acre Holly Springs National Forest, located between Oxford and Holly Springs, contains over 40 lakes, the most of any of Mississippi's National Forest. This forest also has good river and streams. They include the Tippah River, Little Tallahatchie River, Wolf River and Chewalla Creek.

The Tombigbee National Forest with 66,000 acres spread over three areas in northeast Mississippi, includes many lakes such as Davis Lake, a 200-acre impoundment constructed in 1937. Fishable rivers and streams include the Little Tallahatchie River and Sardis Creek.

James L. Cummins is Executive Director of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Stoneville, Mississippi. Known as "Wildlife Mississippi," the Foundation is a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.


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