Georgia anglers are eagerly awaiting re-opening in the spring of a small, but prolific big-bass fishery that has been closed for nearly four years.
In November 2012, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shut down the 106-acre lake at Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area so that it could be drained and leaks sealed in the bed. Repairs began in March but were delayed by spring rains, with completion now expected sometime this fall.
Additionally, DNR has been growing bass at several hatcheries as well as at a three-acre pond near the lake so Ocmulgee will have an immediate population of adult fish for anglers to enjoy. If not for that, it probably wouldn't have re-opened until 2018, said biologist Tim Bonvechio.
"It was really coming on as a high profile trophy bass fishery in the state of Georgia," he added. "We hope to bring that recipe back again."
That recipe involved stocking a lower density population of female-only bass while allowing catch-and-release only for the fishery that first opened in 2006. By all indications, it was working too.
Angler surveys from February and March of 2012 revealed that 46 bass weighing 8 pounds or more were caught and released, with 10 of more than 10 pounds and one checking in at 12-4. Additionally, biologists logged in a 13-4 while doing an electrofishing survey.
Repairs included rerouting the stream that runs through the middle of the impoundment and then removing two feet of lake bed where leaks were occurring. After that, the area was covered with a rugged fabric similar to what is used to prevent runoff at construction sites, with three-feet of red clay pressed on top.
Previously, the lake had been stocked with bluegill, crappie, and catfish, as well as bass. This time around, DNR won't add catfish, which would compete with bass for forage. The hope is that this will help Ocmulgee's bass grow bigger even faster.
"We want to put someone on the fish of a lifetime," Bonvechio said.