After a hiatus of more than three years caused by a levee in disrepair, Trace State Park Lake will reopen for fishing and boating at 6 a.m. Aug. 5.
Trace State Park Lake, an impoundment roughly 565 acres in size located north of Highway 6 in Pontotoc County just west of the Lee County line, was closed in April of 2017 by order of the U.S. Department of Environmental Quality due to concerns for the structural safety of its dam and spillway. Ultimately, the lake was drawn down significantly, and roughly $1.5 million in repairs were made to its water-retaining structures. Those repairs were completed in November of 2019, the spillway was closed and rainfall was allowed to begin refilling the lake. Since then, state officials have restocked bass, bluegill, redear, crappie and channel catfish, then later done surveys of the fish population confirming their progress and health.
Additionally, while it was closed and primary repairs were underway, state wildlife officials took the opportunity to improve the lake in other ways as well.
“We re-did all the fishing piers, put fish attractors out and did everything we could do to improve things for the future,” said Larry Pugh, fisheries bureau director with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Though the lake was once again safe by November, 2019, it has remained closed to fishing and boating as it refilled and as fish populations recovered.
“Along with those we’ve restocked, we had an adult population of fish that maintained itself in the back part of the lake,” Pugh said.
While the majority of the lake was drained to quite shallow levels, a deeper portion of Trace State Park Lake somewhat removed from the levee under repair was able to support and become a haven for a number of adult representatives of the lake’s many fish species, fish that have thrived in the nearly four years since they’ve last seen a hook.
“We have a lot of good bass, bluegill and redear,” Pugh said.
Because of the draining and restocking, the lake does not have a large population of fish in the middle tier. They’re generally all either large or small. Because of this vulnerability, along with the fish population’s natural incaution grown from years without having been pursued by anglers, bag limits for the lake have been dramatically reduced.
A limit of 10 bass per angler per day may be kept, but may include only one fish larger than 22 inches, and no fish measuring between 14 and 22 inches. Creel limits for other fish include 20 crappie, 20 bream and 10 catfish per angler, significantly fewer in each case than limits normally enforced on other state waters. As the lake’s fish population grows and the initial crush of returning anglers subsides, limits will be judiciously adjusted to be more generous in months and years to come, Pugh said.
Along with creel limits for the wellbeing of the lake’s fish population, social distancing limits for the wellbeing of the angler population will be in play upon the lake’s reopening as well. The number of people in each watercraft will be limited to the greater either of two, or 50 percent of the craft’s occupancy limit. Bank and pier fishing will be open, but anglers must remain at least six or more feet apart.
Keeping anglers apart, especially when they’re in the act of launching their boats, is a matter of no small concern for officials because quite a rush is anticipated.
“Going by what we’ve seen at other lake reopenings, at Lake Lamar Bruce and Lake Monroe, and given the Trace State Park Lake’s popularity, I’m expecting a big turnout,” Pugh said. “It’s hot and we’re opening on a Wednesday, but I still expect 200 to 300 boats right away.”
The boat ramp will not open until 6 am for safety’s sake.
“We look forward to getting it back open,” Pugh said. “We know people have been anxious for us to do so, and we’re looking forward to people being able to get back out there and do some fishing and boating.
In addition to the lake, Trace State Park is home to a pair of excellent disc golf courses, as well as 35 miles of ATV and equestrian trails. Those on horseback hold the right of way.
Along these trails, motorized riders stop and cut their engines at mounted riders’ approach. Additionally, a one-mile hiking trail and three separate single-track mountain biking trails help visitors explore the back of beyond.
The park is welcoming to equestrians especially, with an eight-stall stable on site and three separate RV campgrounds totaling 76 improved locations, each with electric, water and sewer hook-ups, plus 16 primitive camping sites.