Drought takes toll on Mississippi River boaters, fisherman

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Drought conditions have left many boat ramps, and fishermen, high and dry along the Mississippi River.

Dozens of discarded Christmas trees have been placed along the shoreline of Herb Parsons Lake, about 30 miles southeast of Memphis.

Those trees were meant to serve as underwater cover for several species of fish, but now they are just a dry reminder of the lake's persistent low water level.

"People come in and say, 'Where is the lake?' " said Jolie Locke, who handles day-to-day operations at the Herb Parsons Lake Store.

"We haven't been at full pool since early last spring, and we won't be again until we get some rain." Low lake levels forced the closure of one of two of the lake's boat ramps last year and this year could be much of the same.

Fishermen can now walk to areas that once were under 3 to 4 feet underwater. Despite the drought conditions, fisherman have caught lots of catfish and bream are now bedding all over the lake.

But other lakes and reservoirs off the Mississippi haven't been so lucky.

All four flood-control reservoirs in Mississippi - Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid and Grenada - have been far below normal pool.

At Arkabutla Lake, less than 30 minutes south of the Tennessee state line in Mississippi, levels were 2 1/2 feet below rule curve.

The national tournament trail Crappie USA scheduled for April 21 was canceled due to what tournament directors termed "dangerously low water conditions."

Last week thousands of male crappie were found floating on Sardis and Enid Lakes.

"Extremely low water levels and aggressive competition over spawning sites may have led to abnormally high post-spawn mortality," said Mississippi fisheries biologist Keith Meals.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)