Ross Barnett Reservoir is one of the biggest outdoor recreation destinations in the state and thousands go there each year for fishing, boating and other opportunities the 33,000-acre lake offers.
However, as big as it is, it can be crowded as users gravitate to popular spots for different activities. The size and boat traffic can also be intimidating for those with smaller boats.
So, what are some alternatives? Here are five places near Jackson that offer excellent fishing as well as picnicking and camping opportunities.
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Located in Flowood off Flowood Drive north of Old Brandon Road, Crystal Lake is a stone’s throw from Jackson, but it is a quality fishery that often goes unnoticed.
“It’s an untapped resource,” said Ryan Jones, fisheries biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “It has quality-size bream and good-sized bass. It has crappie, too.”
The lake property includes a boat launch, comfort station, picnic tables and bank-fishing access. Like all the water bodies in this list, it’s small and invites small watercraft such as canoes and kayaks.
The one thing it generally doesn’t have is a crowd.
“There’s everything you want right there and there’s hardly anybody there,” Jones said. “It’s underutilized.”
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A short drive from Jackson in Morton, Shadow Lake is located in Roosevelt State Park. The park is popular, but there’s not a lot of chatter about the quality fishing offered there.
“It’s always got a good bream population and they have good bass,” Jones said. “We stock crappie and shad in there to support the forage-base.”
The lake is also well-stocked with channel catfish.
Currently, the boat launch is closed due to structural work being done on the lake, but Jones said it should be complete soon and the ramp reopened.
“They should be back and running by Memorial Day,” Jones said.
Until it’s reopened, anglers with small watercraft such as canoes and kayaks can launch from the bank.
If you want to spend more than a day there, the park offers primitive camping, RV sites, cabins and a motel.
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Prentiss Walker Lake
At 81 acres, Prentiss Walker Lake is one of the smaller state lakes, but don’t dismiss it. Lake records include a 43-pound catfish, a 2-pound crappie and a bass weighing almost 14 pounds.
Although the odds of catching a bass that size are low, the odds of catching a lot of bass are quite good.
“If you want to catch eating-size fish, there’s a pile of them in there,” Jones said. “I wish more people would fish and take some bass out.”
For some anglers, Prentiss Walker Lake is a go-to spot for bluegill.
“They’re going to average almost half a pound,” Jones said. “The redear are probably bigger than that.”
And don’t be surprised if you catch some much larger. The lake is known to produce plenty of bluegill and redear sunfish weighing closer to a pound as well as longear sunfish.
The lake also offers plenty of bank-fishing opportunities and cabins and campsites with water and electrical hookups are available for overnight stays.
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The Strong River
Located near the small town of D’Lo in Simpson County, D’Lo Water Park is the Gateway to the Strong River and fishing adventures in a truly natural setting that’s perfect for a hot summer day.
“First off, it’s a beautiful river to get on,” Jones said. “In the heat of the summer that water is cool.”
And that cool water is home to a large number of spotted bass.
“Spotted bass are what I’d key in on,” Jones said. “Everywhere you think a bass should be, there will be one there.”
Jones said he prefers to use small buzzbaits and spinnerbaits, but small crankbaits in a crawfish pattern are also popular.
While spotted bass may be what comes to mind when anglers think of the river, it offers a lot more. Deeper holes can produce a variety of catfish as well as crappie. Bluegill and sunfish can also be readily found.
Canoes and kayaks are generally the preferred watercraft on the river and can be rented at the park. The park also offers primitive camping, RV sites and a cabin.
Calling Panther Lake
Calling Panther Lake is located near Crystal Springs and was the topic of countless stories in its early days when it seemed to have an unending supply of giant bass.
These days there’s less talk about it and the lake has redefined itself.
“At Calling Panther the main focus was on bass, but it’s just as good of a crappie lake,” Jones said.
Although the lake hasn’t produced fish like the 3.84-pound hybrid crappie recently caught at Ross Barnett Reservoir, 1½-pound crappie are plentiful, catching a 2-pounder is realistic and the lake record is 2.75 pounds.
Anglers can also take advantage of the lake’s quality bluegill and redear sunfish. The lake record for redear is 1.65 pounds.
The lake also offers a bath house, primitive camping area and RV sites.