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Jewel in the east: Pickwick Lake shines among the state's waterways.

When anglers in northeastern Mississippi talk about fishing success, the first word that comes to mind is "Pickwick." The massive waterway in the corner of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama not only provides a wide area and versatile habitats for fishing, but all types of fish are prime candidates for the stringer, during the entire year.

Pickwick Lake is a 47,500-acre freshwater lake at the north end of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which provides a water route to the Gulf of Mexico. Locks and dams are scattered from Pickwick Lake to the Gulf, and a trip down the waterway requires several stops and water level corrections along the way. Pickwick Lake and its surrounding fishing area, however, are plenty large enough for even the most discriminating angler.

Pickwick Lake is considered one of the nation's top smallmouth bass fishing areas, with average catches of two to three pounds and as high as five and six pounds. In the spring, smallmouth bass will begin preparations for the spawn in the tailwater portions of the lake. The areas around the lake that have rocky terrain will be the next destination after they spawn. In fall, the fish return to find food to stock up for the winter by going back to these tailwater sites. Several different forms of fall forage are available for the smallmouth bass in Lake Pickwick, including gizzard shad, threadfin shad, crayfish, minnows, small bluegill, and sunfish. In the spring and early summer, crayfish are a favorite food source for the smallmouth bass; plastic variations and crankbait imitations are successful at Pickwick.

With this much area and this many spawning and hiding places, Pickwick Lake has a variety of areas that entice Mr. Bucketmouth. From shallow grasslands in the middle of the lake to deep impoundments at both ends of the waterway, largemouth bass grow to substantial size. Catching a five- to eight-pound largemouth bass is not unusual on a good day of fishing at Pickwick Lake, with some monsters tipping the scales at 10 pounds in some places. Shad, minnows, and young bluegill and sunfish are prime menu items when they move into the shallower water to prepare for spawning in spring. They move into deeper, calmer waters next to the faster currents to look for food through May.

You can also find both black crappie and white crappie at Pickwick Lake. Throw out a tube jig in deep water (about 20 to 30 feet deep) during the warmer months. They are found near underwater obstacles, such as fallen timber, submerged Christmas trees, or brush piles.

Pickwick Lake also is home to striped bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, white bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish, and it's the only place I have ever fished for sauger, which is the southern cousin to the northern walleye. In fact, they are sometimes referred to as "saugeye" by anglers. Sauger is an interesting fish because it requires the use of strange techniques to be successful. Veteran Pickwick Lake guide Roger Stegall took me on my first sauger fishing trip in Pickwick Lake on the coldest day in January, throwing a hot pink jig that included chartreuse feathers and a half-ounce head to the absolute bottom of the deepest part of the lake. I reeled the jig up about a foot from the bottom, and I couldn't bring them into the boat fast enough.

Plan a trip to Pickwick Lake for the water activities and stay at J.P. Coleman State Park, which has RV and primitive camping, cabins, cottages, motel rooms, and townhouses. Be sure to give Roger Stegall a call if you decide to go fishing, m


J.P. Coleman State Park

613 CR 321, Iuka

662.423.6515 or

Roger Stegall Professional Guide Service

County Road 256, House No. 85, Iuka

662.423.3869 or

story and photo by buster wolfe
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Title Annotation:TRAVEL & ADVENTURE: MS Adventures
Author:Wolfe, Buster
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:May 1, 2017
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