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Mississippi River stays unpredictable

Talk about an impatient wait!

Most area fishermen and ladies watch the river stage closely this time of year. We are waiting on a favorable stage for fishing the live oxbow lakes, the old river bend lakes that are currently flooded.

The Mississippi River is tagged unpredictable for a reason. What we are waiting for is a level below 40 feet on the Natchez gauge. Some think that 40 feet is still too high, but it is not. There will still be a lot of water in the woods at that level, but if you know where to look, you can go catching and not just fishing.

So we wait. Some years we have a fishable stage in late May or early June. Other years we have flood waters that just won’t go away, and it could be as late as July before the river recedes, pulling the game fish out of the hundreds of acres of flooded timber.

So far this year, the lowest level we had is 46 feet at Natchez/Vidalia. At that level, the boat ramps and roads leading to the camps are just starting to show. An early June rise has delayed our chance of fishing the Old Rivers before the summer heat really gets bad.

The Mississippi River stage at Natchez today is 47.7 feet. The river is on a very slow rise. On Monday we will see 47.8 feet, and the predicted crest has changed from 48.0 to 47.9 feet on June 17 instead of the 19th.

That is a bit of good news. Looking way upriver, there is a fall coming down, but that fall is followed by a rise. The rise is so far north it may turn into a fall before it gets here. So we are back to waiting and watching the river stages.

In the meantime, despite the heat, I am hearing good reports from the white perch fishermen and ladies on Burshley Bayou located just north of Jonesville. I am not sure of the depth the perch are holding in, but I would think it’s at least 6 to 10 feet deep as hot as it is. The people I spoke to were fishing small, 1/32nd-ounce jig heads tipped with Gene Larew’s Bobby Garland spilt tail shad and baby shad in various colors.

Larto Lake is still producing some nice perch from deep water. Most of the Larto perch anglers are trolling off shore with multiple poles with the same jigs mentioned and live minnows.

The bass fishing is fair on most all of our lakes early in the morning. Surface lures, small bandit 100 and 200 series crank baits and a variety of soft plastics will catch the bass during the summer months.

Lake Okhissa in Franklin County is producing some nice bass. This 1,100-acre, man-made federal lake is a bass hatchery. There are several patterns going on at the same time, which is common for a reservoir that offers deep water opportunities as well as lots of shallow water cover.

You can beat the banks of Lake Okhissa early in the morning with Spro Frogs, or whatever brand of fake frog you like, and catch fish. The surface bite might burn off by mid-day.

If you can catch a cloudy day — or better yet rain — you can catch some big bass and numbers of smaller fish all day on top water lures. If the thin-water bite is not there, turn your sonar on and head out in the middle of the lake. Fish the humps and ridges in 15 to 20 feet of water with 30 to 40 feet of water close by.

Watch your sonar closely and you can find the deep water bass on Lake Okhissa. Reports from the small 250-acre lake at the Natchez State Park have been mighty quiet. I did hear a couple guys talking about catching some nice bass at the park lake, so you may want to try there as well while we wait on the river level to fall.