Franklin County lake construction going well

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2001

Although it will be a few years before it is opened for recreation, the new lake being built on National Forest Lands in Franklin County is expected to be one of the finest public lakes in Mississippi.

Okhissa Lake, located approximately three miles south of Bude on Hwy. 98, will be a 1,000 acre lake open to to both fishermen and other water sport enthusiasts in 2004 or early 2005. Construction began in September of 2000.

&uot;The top 300 acres is wide open and perfect for skiers and other water sports,&uot; Mary Bell Lunsford, public affairs officer for the Homochitto National Forest, said. &uot;The lower part of the lake is more suited for quite water sports like canoeing and fishing.&uot;

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Currently, a half mile wide dam is being constructed by J. H. Parker Construction of Natchez, and when completed it will allow the lake to fill to an average depth of 31 feet. The lake will be as deep as 70 feet up next to the dam.

&uot;This project actually started about 40 years ago,&uot; Lunsford said. &uot;It has been talked about on and off since that time, but we just recently we got the appropriations needed to begin work on the dam.&uot;

Once the dam is completed and the valve is closed, the lake will be stocked with a wide variety of fish. Stocked fish in the lake is expected to include bluegill, redear, white perch, sunfish, black crappie, threadfin shad, fathead minnows, channel catfish and largemouth bass.

&uot;This is a perfect site, because we are not really having to build the lake,&uot; Lunsford said. &uot;All that really needs to be done is complete the dam and build some spawning bed sites.&uot;

Natural spawning sites will be limited in the lake because of steep slopes and few rocky areas. Where possible, structures will be added in an effort to increase spawning success, concentrate sport fish and increase productivity. To improve the lake fishery habitat, fish structures will be installed before the lake bottom is flooded following the completion of the dam.

According to Lunsford, on south-facing slopes, the majority of beds will be relatively shallow. it is expected that spawning fish will use these beds earlier in the year because they will be the first areas to warm up in the spring. The north-facing slopes will be somewhat deeper and will be used by fish that spawn later in the year.

The size of each spawning bed will vary depending on the amount of level land available, but most will measure close to 20 sq. feet.