Fishing limit changes made at Lake Okhissa

Published 2:36 am Sunday, April 26, 2009

MEADVILLE— Monday marks some changes for young Okhissa Lake.

The creel limits for catfish and crappie have changed, as has the slot limit for largemouth bass in the lake located in the Homochitto National Forest.

The catfish limit as been reduced to five per day starting Monday, and fishermen may take 10 crappie and 10 largemouth bass per day.

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The minimum length to keep a crappie is 10 inches — any under that length must be returned to the water immediately.

And the new slot limit for largemouth bass is 18 to 22 inches, up from the previous 16 to 20 inches, just in time for the second annual Lake Okhissa Bass Tournament on May 2.

Fishermen may keep one bass per day over 22 inches, but any in the slot limit must be returned to the lake.

“Basically we’re moving up the slot to protect that age of the population,” wildlife biologist Bill Meriwether said. “The whole point of protecting that age class of fish is to have brood stock for the future of our big bass.”

Meriwether said the changes will also make the lake more productive in the future.

By protecting those fish, there will be more large fish in the lake in the years to come, and more younger fish can be taken in the meantime.

“Removing the restriction on the 16- to 18-inch fish will enable folks to take more bass from the lake,” Meriwether said. “That’s important because, with a lot of new lakes, the potential for the lake to become crowded with bass exists. We hope that this will help grow trophy bass, which is — from a fisherman’s standpoint — one of the core focuses of the lake.”

Catfish, on the other hand, are becoming scarce in the manmade lake.

Meriwether said the U.S. Forest Service hopes to restock the lake with catfish soon.

“We think that a lot of catfish came out of there in the opening year of the lake,” he said. “It’s pretty typical to manage catfish in a lake. We’ll probably have to come back periodically and restock, whether every two years or every four.”

The 10-inch minimum regulation for crappie is new as well.

Meriwether said the lake is currently being restocked with crappie, and the new rule will help protect the younger fish.

“We’re trying to grow our crappie population,” Meriwether said. “We have to protect the smaller ones and protect that population of fish.”

Meriwether said the U.S. Forest Service has been monitoring the lake for the past year, and biologist Rick Dillard has periodically come out to take data and run tests on the lake.

But Meriwether said the changes aren’t uncommon.

“I think it’s pretty typical, especially on a new lake, to bump up the slot limits and sizes as the lake ages,” he said. “The lake is only a year and a half old.”