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Slow river rise affecting local fishing

The Mississippi River is on a very slow rise.

Our prediction a month ago that we could possibly see a favorable level for fishing the live oxbow lakes, located on the unprotected side of the levee, by mid-June is fading fast, but still possible.

If not by June 15, we may be fishing the Old River bend lakes by the end of June. That is just in time to escape the high traffic of the Fourth of July holiday on the landlocked lakes.

The river stage at Natchez today is 46.1 feet and rising real slow. On Monday, we will be at 46.4 feet then 46.8 and 47.1 on Thursday. There is finally a crest level and a date on the charts.

For several days they did not have this information available. As of today, the Corps is predicting a crest at Natchez of 48.0 feet (flood stage) on June 19.

If that holds up, it looks like the river will be holding steady around 47 to 48 feet for about two weeks. We are certainly ready to fish something besides piers and cypress trees.

The live oxbows fluctuate as much as 50 feet, so there are no cypress trees in the Old Rivers at Yucatan, Vidalia and Deer Park. Willow trees can grow in water so willow trees make up the majority of cover that holds fish on the Old Rivers.

What the Old Rivers have to offer that the landlocked lakes don’t, is bass, white perch, white bass, catfish and a few sea run striped bass that do not have a Ph.D. in hooks and lures.

In other words, there are some dumb fish in the Old Rivers, and dumb fish are the best kind to fish for.

Conditions are shaping up for this to a banner year for the live oxbow lakes. The river stayed around or just above flood stage for several months, flooding the surrounding woods.

That puts a lot of fish food in the water. Right now the water clarity looks great. Huge mats of duck seed cover hundreds of acres. I can hear the beam feeding under the duck seed.

Duck seed looks like a huge green carpet on the water. It’s actually good for the fishing but aggravating to boat through. Duck seed clogs up water pump intakes on outboards which will cause your motor to run hot.

If you know the area you are idling through, it would be better to keep your outboard trimmed down below the matted duck seed. That way you’ll pick up clean water and not the duck seed from the surface.

I am a bit anxious to fish the Old Rivers this year. We usually wait until we have a level at Natchez/Vidalia under 40 feet, but I plan to fish the Old Rivers and backwaters as soon as the river drops to about 43 or 42 feet. At that level, the water is still in the woods, but if you follow the drains leading to the flooded barrow pits, you can find some fish stacked up.

About 30 years ago, I had one of the best bass fishing trips of my life on Deer Park, catching 15 bass over five pounds; I lost count of the three- and four-pound fish.

The river was at 38 feet and falling fast. We were cranking big deep diving Bagley DB3 lures in 17 to 21 feet of water. You had to burn the crank bait with a wide open retrieve. When the lure bounced off a limb or the bottom, the bass would crush the lure. That pattern still works to this day, but if you have ever pulled a big crank as fast as you can reel it, you know that it is very hard work, but extremely productive.

At 38 or lower, the big Old River bream will be easy to locate and that is fun. You can catch white perch at that level but many perch fishermen wait until about 30 down to 28 feet or lower to fish for the big slab perch on the Old Rivers.

Please practice safe boating. There is a ton of boat traffic on our lakes this summer so wear your personal flotation device when under way. Life jackets are called “life” jackets for a reason.

They can save your life.