By Ray Van Dusen
WREN – November marks the beginning of renovation for Lake Monroe, one of the state’s oldest state-maintained lakes.
The two- to five-year renovation will include repairs to its water level control structure, fishing pier and boat ramp, in addition to restocking it with bream, crappie, catfish and bass.
“We’ve seen a decline in the new fish population and there are less big fish and more small fish. Less people are fishing it, which tells us people aren’t happy with it,” said Tyler Stubbs, fisheries biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Stubbs said the quality of the fish will improve for 10 or 11 years after the restock before the average fish size begins to decline again.
“After we reopened Lake Jeff Davis, cars were lined up for a long time and we expect the same with Lake Lamar Bruce once it reopens. Lake Monroe is a tough spot being a hop, skip and jump away from the waterway, but we usually see a good many crappie anglers there,” Stubbs said.
While bass and crappie have declined through the years at the lake constructed in 1954, Stubbs expects the restock to attract a wider variety of anglers from neighboring areas to the lake on Coontail Road.
According Larry Bull, assistant director of the MDWFP fisheries bureau, the state’s 18 lakes bring in between $450,000 and $500,000 in permitting fees, but Lake Monroe has recently generated $8,000 in permit sales.
“We hope with the renovations and better fishing population that figure will increase,” Bull said.
The 99-acre lake will be slowly drained with the water ultimately channeling through Matubby Creek onto the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. At its deepest point, the level is just below 30 feet.
Fishing will be allowed while the lake is draining and all creel and length limits will be removed. Fishing licenses and lake permits will be required and anglers may only fish with one rod and reel or pole.
No other fishing gear is allowed. After Lake Monroe is drained, the facility, which includes the campgrounds, will be closed to public use during the renovation and repair period.
“As far as a time frame to reopen, it depends on how long it takes to drain and what type of repairs we need to make. Any big rains will slow us down,” Stubbs said.