Homochitto National Forest’s Okhissa Lake to open Nov. 7

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Okhissa Lake in the Homochitto National Forest is set to open on Nov. 7, and officials say the sparkling, wind-swept waters will offer some of the best fishing in South.

“It is going to be world-class fishing,” said Homochitto district ranger Tim Reed. “I don’t think you’ll find a more intensively managed lake in the country for the fisheries.”

The lake is massive. It’s still four feet low and probably won’t fill up until next summer, but by that time it will span 1,075 acres and reach more than 80 feet deep at the dam. The average depth is expected to be around 31 feet.

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“This is one of my high points in my career,” said dam designer Kim Harris, state engineer for the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Okhissa Lake has the largest dam in the U.S. Forest Service system and the tallest dam in Mississippi. It’s also the first Forest Service lake designed strictly for fishing.

“This is an unbelievable fishery,” said Paul Bishop, director of sales for Bill Dance Signature Lakes, which helped design the fisheries.

However, the lake isn’t only for fishing. It’s a serene escape nestled among the piney ridges of the Homochitto Forest. Skiing will be allowed next year when the lake is full, along with swimming, when a sand beach is completed by the dam.

In the future, visitors will find campgrounds, lodges, cabins, a marina and a hiking trail. The Forest Service is looking for a private company to build and run such facilities.

Okhissa has cost a total of $24 million so far and it will likely end up costing another $10 million to finish the day-use areas and roads.

Biologists shocked parts of the lake in March — stunning fish to check their size — and found one bass up to 6 pounds just 23 months after stocking. Many bass were in the 3-pound range.

Bream are already up to a pound and are numerous.

“It’s going to be good right off the bat for the bream fishermen,” Bishop said.

Catfish are weighing in around three or four pounds. Crappie were introduced much later since they compete heavily with bass, and they’re hard to shock, so officials had little data on them.