Okhissa Lake ready for public

Published 11:41 pm Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bude — Started as a grass roots movement in the mid 1970s by the people of Franklin County and the surrounding areas, Okhissa Lake becomes a reality on Nov. 7 when it becomes open to the public.

“This area’s economy is based mainly on forestry,” Head District Ranger Tim Reed said. “Senator Thad Cochran and others wanted to build something here that would bring rural development and economic diversity.”

Reed said studies done by a Mississippi State University and private groups found that Okhissa Lake would have a $2.6 to $4 million impact on the area in 40-mile radius.

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“The whole point of this lake is to bring tourism and money to the area,” Reed said.

An appropriations bill that allowed for the funding for Okhissa Lake was signed Nov. 29, 1999.

“Approximately $24 million has gone into the building of this lake,” Reed said. “Thirteen million went toward the building of the dam, six million towards the roads and the rest toward stocking the lake.”

The lake is roughly two and a half miles long and one half to a full mile wide Reed said.

Okhissa Lake currently features 39 miles of shoreline, two boat ramps, parking and a picnic area.

“We still have about $2.6 million of work to be done,” Reed said.

Reed said bids were being taken for things such as cabin, camping areas and restaurants.

“By the beginning of next year there should be bids from public companies to handle the campgrounds and other recreation areas,” Reed said.

The largest draw for Okhissa Lake is the fishing.

It is the first Bill Dance Signature Lake.

Bill Dance is a renowned bass fisherman,

“With Bill Dance putting his signature this legitimizes it,” President for Bill Dance Waters Robert Chandler said. “Once the word gets out, people will come. It will be a huge economic impact.”

Chandler said the planning going into stocking the lake was the most comprehensive than any other lake.

“The infrastructure beneath the water is designed a perfect balance between predator and prey,” Chandler said. “This lake was built as a fishery first. Everything is designed to grow big fish.”

Reed said 80,000 Florida Bass, 30,000 Blue Gill Bream, 200,000 Catfish and 300,000 Fat Head Minnows were released to stock Okhissa Lake.

“The fish were stocked at different times to ensure a balanced ratio,” Reed said. “We have a variety of fish here. Last time we did a check there were bass up to six pounds and catfish between three and four pounds.”

There is a $5 per car fee to enter the lake. This fee covers all day use activities.

“We want the public to know what to expect when we open on the seventh,” Reed said. “We will have the north and south boat ramps open for use. There will be no skiing allowed and alcohol is prohibited.”

Reed said amenities like the beach area would be closed till next summer.

“We are expecting a large number of people to show up the week it opens,” Reed said. “It should make for an interesting few weeks.”

Reed said there will be extra rangers working to help with traffic and assist the public in anyway.

More information can be found at www.fs.fed.us/r8/mississippi/homochitto/.