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State wildlife officials are making major improvements to the lake and campgrounds at Elvis Presley Lake, which is now closed altogether.

Elvis Presley Lake was closed in recent days and has been drained in the first steps of a major overhauling process projected to last roughly three years. State wildlife officials expect to reopen the lake to the public in May or June of 2024.

Periodically, the state closes and does major overhauls on the public lakes it manages. Similar processes have been executed recently at Trace State Park Lake and Lake Lamar Bruce, both of which have now been long reopened.

The process at Elvis Presley Lake began in May of this year when the draining process commenced. That process was completed earlier this week and the lake was formally closed. The gate at the park’s entry is now closed and locked.

According to Dennis Riecke, fisheries and environmental coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks, plans at Elvis Presley Lake include:

• An inspection of the lake’s drain structure and installation of a trash rack on the drain pipe to prevent logs getting caught in the drain pipe.

• The addition of fish attractors or brush piles in the shoreline areas to provide cover for small fish.

• The addition of a number of gravel beds in the shoreline areas to provide ideal spawning sites for bass and bluegill.

Off and rolling

Officials expect this lake bed work to be done in the coming months. Provided that work proceeds as planned, the lake’s drainage valve will be closed this fall so the lake may begin to refill from runoff from fall and winter rains. Once that is successfully completed, the state will restock the lake with bluegill and redear bream as well as crappie and shad, ideally this fall. These fish serve not only as quarry for bank and boat fishermen, but also as a critical food source for bass. Therefore, they are generally stocked far enough ahead of bass to allow them a chance to grow and begin spawning on their own, the better to be prepared for both uses.

Riecke said plans call for largemouth bass to be restocked in the lake in the spring of 2022.

Along with lakebed and fishery improvements, a number of camping and day use facilities are in line for upgrades as well. Officials plan to replace the day use restrooms at the boat ramp next spring. In 2023, plans call for the upgrade of the campground electrical supply to offer 50 amp service, the replacement or renovation of the campground bath house and the redecking of the public fishing piers.

Ultimately, the lake should reopen to the public in May or June of 2024.

Two-year process

“Typically we reopen a lake about two years after we stock the largemouth bass to give them time to reach a harvestable size,” Riecke said. “We will sample the fish populations then to determine what regulations are appropriate when the lake reopens.

Elvis Presley Lake is a 322-acre impoundment that opened initially in 1971. In 2002, a legislative bill allowed the Tombigbee Valley Water Management District to transfer the lake to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the lake has been under state management since then.

Elvis Presley Lake is a popular area attraction and was last closed after an April 2014 tornado wiped out the vast majority of the trees that covered its rolling hillsides. It was closed for repairs for 29 weeks, then was reopened.

Other area success

In recent years, Trace State Park Lake was closed due to a levee problem that necessitated repairs. It was successfully rehabilitated and restocked, then was reopened in August of 2020. Lake Lamar Bruce was closed for a similar stretch prior to that, reopening in May of 2015. Both of these lakes are located handily in Northeast Mississippi and would be ideal alternate destinations for those whose activities are now displaced by the Elvis Presley Lake closure. Lake Lamar Bruce, especially, is welcoming to bank and small craft fishermen. It features a number of earthen piers and other elements that makes it accessible to those fishing without a watercraft.

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