MAGEE, Mississippi — Sitting in a lawn chair on the bank as the morning sun rose over the water James Kennedy of Magee watched his corks float in the water and talked about his years of fishing at Simpson County Lake.
"I've been fishing here probably between 35 and 40 years," said Kennedy. "I have caught many a bream out of this place."
Kennedy pointed out spots where bluegill are known to bed on the far side of the lake and said he typically fishes out of his boat, but this time he just wanted to take it easy and sit on the bank while he had a little time to kill.
In addition to the bream, Kennedy said he had good luck with other species.
"I've caught many a 3-pound white perch," said Kennedy. "Those shellcrackers or redears, I call them chinquapins, I've caught some 10 inches long and 2 inches thick."
With fish like that, some might expect the 76-acre lake to be filled with boats, especially considering it is only about a 35-minute drive down U.S. Highway 49 South from Jackson. On this particular morning, Kennedy was the only angler on the bank and only one boat could be seen on the water.
As expected, weekends are the busy times at Simpson County Lake, and manager John Lee said there are generally around eight boats on the water. While that may not seem like much traffic, remember: It's less than 80 acres. During the week, anglers like Kennedy often find they almost have the lake to themselves.
Charles Peyton of Monticello said he started fishing the lake this spring.
"I talked with some people and they assured me it was good fishing here," said Lee.
Retired, Lee fishes during the week.
"About two weeks ago, I was out here and there was only one other fellow out here."
That has kept Lee coming back and this day he was with fishing partner Jay Maye of Oma.
"We enjoy just coming out here for the fellowship," said Peyton. "It's quiet, relaxing and peaceful."
With the lake located only a stone's throw from Highway 49, words like "quiet" and "peaceful" may seem far-fetched to some.
But as Peyton and Maye fished for bluegill in a cove, the sounds of heavy traffic seemed miles away. When the two decided to call it a day at noon, their only company was a couple laughing and eating lunch at a picnic table overlooking the water.
Though the fishing was pretty slow on this trip for Peyton, Maye and Kennedy, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks biologist Larry Bull backed up Kennedy's claims as to the quality of the fishery.
"There are some good bass in that lake," said Bull.
An example he cited was a photo on the lake's fishing report of an angler with two bass over 10 pounds he caught.
"The bass tend to be more healthy at Simpson," said Bull. "We aren't as bass-crowded there."
According to Bull, the crappie population is also good at Simpson, due to efforts by MDWFP.
"Altogether, we've stocked 22,500 Magnolia crappie in there since 2009."
That stocking, along with fish attractors consisting of sunken Christmas trees, helps anglers meet with success.
When it comes to bluegill, Bull said they tend to be a little smaller than those found at some lakes.
"You're not going to see the size you have at Prentiss Walker."
What the bluegill lack in size, their cousins make up for.
"The redear, you're going to catch big redear," said Bull.
Quality fish, a change in scenery and a lake practically to yourself during the week? Simpson County Lake may be worth taking a day off from work.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com