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Old Rivers producing lots of fish

A year ago fishing the Old Rivers, the live oxbow lakes that are connected to the Mississippi River, was not even an option.

The 2011 record flood was upon us, and many people were in panic mode. On the protected side of the levee, the landlocked lakes were at near record low levels while the water on the other side of the levee was at a record high level.

2011 was a strange year. This year is much different. I think it was May 18 when the river crested at a record level 61.9 feet. Saturday the river stage at Natchez is an amazing 37.7 feet lower than this time last year.

The stage at Natchez Saturday is 24.2 feet and rising.

For about a month now, we have been fortunate to have a lower than normal river level, and the fishing has been great at Deer Park, Old River Vidalia and Yucatan.

The forecast changed Friday from a very slight rise, to a bit higher rise that may slow the fishing down for a few days.

On Monday, we’ll see a level of 25.1 then 26 on Tuesday and 27.8 on Wednesday. That’s exactly what we needed.

Had the river continued to fall at the rate it was, the Old Rivers would have been very low by this summer, and the fishing would not be near as good.

I would love to see a level of about 30 to 32 feet in the next week or so and then a slow fall.

The old river bend lakes are loaded with bass, bream, white perch, white bass and catfish. If you know how to fish a rise, you can still catch the fish.

The water will move back into the green willows, and that’s where you’ll find the bream, some bass and a few perch. Right now, some perch are holding on the old dead willow stumps and some will stay there during the rise while others will move up with the rising water.

The largemouth bass in the Old Rivers tend to scatter in the backwaters, but if you stick to bluff banks and points you may find them stacked up in one area.

A host of lures will catch the Old river bass, but when the river is on a rise, you need to use search lures that allow you to cover a lot of water and locate the fish.

That’s where crank baits come into play and there are thousands of brands and styles to choose from.

The local favorite brand is the Bandit. The new series 250 will work just fine when the stage is between 25 and 30 feet. As the river falls and the Old Rivers get lower, just change to a 300 series that dives a bit shallower.

Once the river drops below 20 feet it’s hard to beat a Bandit 100 or 200 series.

The white perch fishermen and ladies were catching limits from 10 to 12 feet deep using Bobby Garland Slab Slayers and a little twin tail jig body by Gene Larew.

With this rise, you can expect to find the bream in the flooded green willows holding from 5 to 8 feet deep. To avoid the smaller bream, try fishing just off the bottom to catch the larger chinquapin and bluegills.

The chinquapin (also known as red ear bream and shell crackers) tends to like red worms, while the big blue gill eat crickets.

The fishing is great on the Old Rivers. This slight rise may change your pattern, but just keep looking. The fish are there. You just have to find them.


Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at fishingwitheddie@bellsouth.net.