PRENTISS, Mississippi — Lenzie Alford's rod bowed over hard as he struggled to keep the fish from getting tangled in other lines that extended from his boat. Scooping up his catch in a net, Alford, of Foxworth, showed off his 2-pound channel cat and smiled like a kid on Christmas morning.
"I love it," said Alford as he talked about the newly opened Jeff Davis Lake.
"It's my first time being here," said Alford. "I heard about it years ago, but it's my first trip here."
Alford had to put the conversation on pause while he pulled in another bluegill and put it on ice.
"My daughter, all she likes is catfish, so I'm catching them for her," said Alford. "My wife likes bream, so I'm catching them for her."
Alford's preference? "I like all of it," said Alford. "I love it all."
Alford was one of hundreds that flocked to the state lake this past week when it reopened after a three-year closure. According to lake manager Richard Hathorn, the lake was closed because the integrity of the dam had been compromised by trees and other growth.
"The old dam had a steep grade and you couldn't cut it," said Hathorn. "It was a high-hazard dam."
During the time that dam construction was taking place, other improvements were also made. A new office with men's and women's restrooms was built, the ramp was rebuilt with two launching lanes and wooden courtesy piers, roads throughout the park area were paved and the campground was improved with new pads, water connections and electrical outlets.
With all the upgrades to the tree-shaded camping area, Hathorn expects to see a lot of use.
"I have 13 sites ...," said Hathorn. "I would say it will be filled up three-quarters of the time."
Hathorn said gravel beds were placed near each of them to serve as bedding areas for bream. In addition to those, gravel beds were placed near the campground for campers fishing from the bank.
Once the dam was constructed and the water level raised, Hathorn said it was stocked with channel catfish, Florida bass, Magnolia crappie, redear and hybrid bluegill.
"There's some mighty fine bream out there, I can tell you," said Hathorn.
In addition to good bream, Hathorn said bass from 4-6 pounds were caught and released this past week.
Mallory Spiers, 12, of Necaise, had already gotten in on the bass action and pulled a 1-pounder out of an ice chest to show off.
"I was excited because it was the first fish we caught," said Spiers.
Spiers was fishing with several family members in two boats, including her cousin, Danielle Spiers, of Poplarville. Danielle Spiers unhooked a big bull bluegill for her grandfather and said she had already caught several bluegill herself.
"It's a really pretty place here," said Spiers. "I'll definitely be coming back."
Michael McCullum of Laurel, said he was fishing for anything that bites and described the fishing as good.
"We've caught bream and just that one bass so far," said McCullum. "We've been out here for about an hour, but before it's over, I'm going to have a limit."
McCullum's fishing partner, Larry Bradford, of Laurel, said he had fished the lake before it was drained and while he felt the bluegill were on the small side compared to what he caught before, he expected things to improve.
"I think in a couple of years it's going to be a great lake," said Bradford. "Especially with all that cover. It's going to be great for bass, the cover is superb."
The cover Bradford pointed to consisted of groves of willow trees that were partially submerged in areas of the lake. Hathorn said the willows grew in the lake because it was drained through an 8-inch pipe. That process took months and gave the willows time to take root and grow before it was refilled.
Ricky Kraft took advantage of the cover and worked a plastic worm along the edges, which had produced five fish for him.
"Being a new lake opening, I figured the fishing would be great," said Kraft. "I'm impressed, so far."
If you go:
Location: Jeff Davis Lake is located on Mississippi Highway 42 about 3 miles south of Prentiss.
Size: 100 acres
Species and limits — Bass: 15 per day, per angler with 1 fish over 20 inches. All bass between 16 and 20 inches must be released immediately.
Bream (hybrid bluegill and redear): 100 per day, per angler.
Channel catfish: 10 per day, per angler.
Magnolia crappie: 30 per day, per angler.
Jeff Davis Lake, http://www.mdwfp.com
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com