Would you like to find a great little place where you can take the family for a weekend of fishing fun? A place where you can set up a tent or RV and camp? A place where you can enjoy a picnic with a view? A place where the kids can swim between fishing times?
If so, the following trio of Mid-South lakes should be among the destinations you consider. All three harbor good populations of big bluegills and/or redear sunfish – panfish that are tailor-made for eager young anglers who can’t wait to get a fish on the line. And all provide great facilities for a nice outdoors weekend with your loved ones.
Tippah County Lake, Mississippi
This beautiful 145-acre lake in northeast Mississippi is a favorite destination for fishermen who love to combine their angling with a family camping trip. It sits near the base of Woodall Mountain, the highest point in Mississippi at a whopping 806 feet above sea level, and outdoor opportunities of every sort await visitors. Fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, boating and weekend skiing are all popular activities.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks owns the lake, and the agency does a good job managing the various fishes found there. Catfishing and largemouth-bass fishing are superb, but for many, the best reason to visit is a chance to catch a mess of bream that can be taken home to eat.
There are good opportunities for catching both bluegills and redear sunfish. Both species reach whopping sizes, too. The lake-record bluegill caught in 1990 tipped the scales at 1 pound, 11 ounces. And the following year, Tippah County Lake gave up the biggest redear ever caught in the Magnolia State – a 3.33-pound state record that was the size of a dinner plate. Crickets, redworms and mealworms are top baits for both species.
Facilities include three handicapped-access fishing piers, neatly mown shores to facilitate bank fishing, picnic tables, grills, a pavilion, boat rentals and 22 camping pads with water and electric hookups.
To reach the lake, go 2-1/2 miles north of Ripley on Highway 15 and turn west on Tippah Lake Road. For a current fishing report, plus GPS coordinates for Christmas-tree fish attractors and a link to a good lake map, click here.
Meeman-Shelby State Park Lakes, Tennessee
Situated 13 miles north of Memphis, Meeman-Shelby State Park preserves one of the last significant canopy forests left along the Mississippi River. Two-thirds of the 12,539-acre park is covered by bottomland hardwoods, including large oaks, cypress trees and tulip poplars, and there are 20 miles of trails that take visitors to beautiful areas where wildlife of all sorts can be seen.
The park’s two lakes – Peirsol Lake (12 acres) and Poplar Tree Lake (132 acres) – provide opportunities for the bass fishing aficionado and the catfish fan, but big bream are the targets of many family fishing groups.
A live cricket dabbled near trees, snags and other cover is likely to be quickly gobbled up by a big bluegill. And a wiggly worm dropped right on the bottom will usually entice one of the lakes’ big redears.
Rental johnboats are available at the park boat dock, but many enjoy fishing from the pier or bank. Personally owned boats with electric motors are allowed on the lake for a small launch fee, but no gasoline motors are allowed. The special park fishing permit required for anglers between the ages of 16 and 62 can be obtained at the park office.
There are plenty of other recreational opportunities at Meeman-Shelby as well. The park has a nature center, riding stables, a golf course, softball diamond, badminton and volleyball. Six housekeeping cabins are available on Poplar Tree Lake, and there are 49 campsites equipped with table, grill, electrical and water hookups.
The park is located at 910 Riddick Road in Millington. For more information, visit the park website or contact Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park directly at 901-876-5215.
Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
Surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, 40,000-acre Lake Ouachita in west-central Arkansas is known for its scenic natural beauty and the clarity of its waters. Named one of the cleanest lakes in America, this beautiful Corps of Engineers impoundment is a water sports Mecca for swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating and fishing.
Ouachita bream fishing is best described in terms of temperature; it’s hot! The lake harbors an extremely healthy population of bluegills a pound and up, and anglers in the know will catch plenty of huge redears as well. Both species usually can be found in quiet coves along the lake’s 975 miles of shoreline or in deep weedbeds surrounding Ouachita’s many islands.
Located just a short drive from the spa city of Hot Springs on the lake’s eastern shore, Lake Ouachita State Park is a good place to call your home away from home when visiting this popular bream-fishing lake. The park’s fully-equipped cabins include seven that overlook the lake and one that offers a woods view. There are 50 campsites as well, plus picnic areas, trails, a swimming area and marina with boat rentals, bait and supplies. The visitor center includes exhibits and a store.
The park is located at 5451 Mountain Pine Road in Mountain Pine, just 15 road miles from Hot Springs. Additional information is available on the park website or by calling 501-767-9366.