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Water Park Bassin'

Water Park Bassin'

These facilities are spread across the southern portion of Mississippi. So, what do they offer to bass anglers? Let's have a look. (April 2009)

Justin Embrey caught his largemouth at Turkey Creek Water Park while fishing with his dad, Eric Embrey.
Photo courtesy of Eric Embrey.

For many people, water parks are places you go to enjoy thrill rides, water slides and swimming pools. But for Mississippi bass anglers, especially those in the southeastern portion of the state, a water park is a place to enjoy a day of fishing.

Sure, some of these facilities offer water slides and other attractions for visitors, but bass fishermen are usually too busy landing lunker largemouths to notice.

The Pat Harrison Waterway District offers nine of these water parks featuring scenic beauty, a variety of accommodations, and an array of outdoor recreational opportunities. Each water park is unique, with its own special appeal, and eight of the parks offer bass fishing.

Not a part of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Pat Harrison Waterway District is a separate state agency responsible for managing the tributaries that make up the Pascagoula River Basin. The Pascagoula River drains the southeastern region of the Magnolia State. This is a watershed of many small, clear running streams that converge to form the 90-mile Pascagoula River, which is the largest free-flowing stream the southern states.

Scattered across southeast Mississippi like pellets from a shotgun blast, each of the eight Pat Harrison Water Park lakes has unique bass angling opportunities. Let's take a closer look at each of them, starting in the north and going south.

Located just off State Route 19 to the northwest of Meridian, Okatibbee Water Park is one of the better known of these facilities. With 28 miles of shoreline, this 3,800-acre reservoir offers bass fishing year 'round.


However, with no designated water ski areas or ski times, Okatibbee bass fishermen have to be selective about the time of day and day of the week they choose to fish. Otherwise, working the backwater coves may be the only option. Fortunately, the temperatures in April are a bit on the chilly side for most competing water sports.

Located just off SR 15, five miles southwest of Decatur, Turkey Creek Water Park and its 250-acre lake attracts bass anglers from many areas. Anglers are partial to Turkey Creek's accessibility, being conveniently located just north of Interstate 20. But it is the excellent bass fishing that keeps them coming back.

According to Eric Embrey of the nearby town of Hickory, April is a great time to wet your line in Turkey Creek. He prefers to "finesse fish" the abundant structure and opts for a 6 1/2-foot rod with 8- to 10-pound line.

"I use a Shakey Head and attach a black, blue or watermelon seed plastic worm," Embrey said. "Since the water is very clear in Turkey Creek, I focus on lake structure and creek channels.

"I prefer Turkey Creek over the other Water Park lakes in the area because of the size of the lake and the size of the fish," Embrey added. "The lake is small enough that you can take your time and fish the entire lake in a single day. And while the average bass caught at Turkey Creek is in the 3-pound range, 10-plus-pound bass are possible."

Don't let size fool you. Although Dry Creek is the smallest of the water park lakes, this 150-acre fishery produces some trophy Florida-strain largemouth bass each spring.

Located near Mount Olive, just off U.S. Highway 49, this small lake is an overlooked water park. Many bass fishermen pass it up for the larger impoundments thinking that "bigger is better," which simply isn't the case.

Anglers that frequent Dry Creek suggest similar tactics to those used at Turkey Creek. Soft plastics and spinnerbaits around structure and in the shallows produce the best fishing.

Big Creek is the newest of the Pat Harrison Waterway District lakes. This 200-acre lake is located just off U.S. 84 near Soso, about halfway between Laurel and Collins.

Bass are abundant in this lake, making for good fishing. But even without decent fishing, the scenery of the rolling green countryside makes this a must fish bass lake.

As is the case with any of the smaller water park lakes, the spawn slows down by April. Fishing soft plastics along the structure-lined creek channel is your best bet. If colder weather delays the spawn, try the shallows for bedding bass.

Located just off U.S. 45 and SR 18 near the town of Quitman is Archusa Creek Water Park. This 450-acre lake is a bass fisherman's paradise, boasting a large and recovering population of quality largemouths. The lake is coming off a few years where problems related to severe drought conditions reduced water levels and limited bass production.

Because of the past water problems, Archusa has been bypassed by many anglers recently. Ignoring its past and giving this lake a second chance would be sage advice. Reduced fishing pressure in recent years has resulted in bigger bass coming out of Archusa.

Located six miles west of Waynesboro off U.S. 84, this 450-acre lake once had a reputation for producing some of Mississippi's biggest largemouths. While Maynor may no longer be at the top of the list for trophy bass, it continues to produce sizeable stringers of respectable bass. This time of year, anglers need to focus on the shallows, concentrating on the weedbeds, lily pads, and any visible structure.

"I won my first bass tournament at Maynor," Eric Embrey noted. "I have had my best luck fishing Brush Hawgs on the points and along the creek channels and casting 3/4-ounce spinnerbaits in the shallows near the weedbeds."

Little Black Creek is located off Interstate 59 between Purvis and Lumberton. At just over 650 acres, this lake hosts many local bass tournaments. Although it is the second largest water park lake, there is no skiing allowed because of an abundance of stumps and logs.

"Little Black Creek is a black water lake," said John McNeese, the resident ranger at the water park. "The water is too dark for topwater lures. However, black or dark blue Carolina-rigged soft-plastic worms seem to produce b


"We have a limit of seven bass with one over 18 inches," McNeese added. "While most bass caught are in the 6- to 14-inch range, lunkers weighing in the double digits are a definite possibility."

At 600 acres, this is the southernmost of the lakes. Located on SR 29 in Wiggins and only 35 miles north of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the lake at Flint Creek Water Park offers bass anglers over 13 miles of shoreline.

According to Stewart Smith, Marketing Director for the Pat Harrison Waterway District, Flint Creek is loaded with schools of shad. Topwater lures and soft-plastic swimbaits that resemble shad are very effective on this lake.

"In the spring while the fish are spawning, working the shallows with a Carolina-rigged soft plastic, spotted lizard works great," said Smith said.

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