HAWKINSVILLE, GA – Anglers around the state are now welcome to cast their lines at the Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area, as it has officially opened their gates back up to the public after a six-year restoration.
After nearly six years of waiting, anglers can now officially cast their lines back into the waters of the Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area. This 106-acre lake, which was best known for its trophy largemouth bass, was shut down back in 2012 after major problems with the lake bed were discovered.
Tim Bonvechio, Senior Fisheries Biologist for DNR says, “the lake developed a sink hole and compromised the lake bottom, so the lake started to leak. Which it wasn’t sustainable for the fish population out here.”
That began the lengthy process of applying for government funding, draining the lake, and then fixing the problem. With such a large area to cover, the repair was long and complicated.
“Essentially, they just dug out a 24-acre footprint from this 106-acre lake where the engineers identified where the leaks were and borrowed the clay off our site here and put back two feet of clay on top,” says Bonvechio. “So, basically, it’s a 24-25-acre footprint across the whole lake bottom in the middle there where they found the compromised areas.”
So far, so good, as there have been no problems spotted since the lake began refilling back in January of 2017.
“Right now, we’re only ten inches from full pool. So, it’s pretty neat to look out here right now and see that we’re just about where we need to be for the water levels,” says Bonvechio.
While having proper water levels was the first step, it wouldn’t be a fishing area without the fish. Back in the spring last year that problem was solved as more than 500 bass were stocked along with a number of other species.
“We really are excited to be out here and have the lake open to the public again,” says Bonvechio. “We’re not holding back any recipes here. This is a trophy largemouth bass fishery as well as productive crappie and brim, blue gill and red ear. So, we’re really excited to have the lake open again for the public to enjoy. We got a couple year classes of bass now in the lake and several crappie, bluegill and red ear sunfish, and lots of forage we stocked in here. So, the lake is getting up and going.”
Each of the bass stocked has a chip implanted, which allows DNR professionals to track how the individual fish are growing. While the trophy level bass anglers were catching at this pond’s peak is still a few years away, there is plenty of good fishing to be had right now.
Bonvechio says, “a lot of our fish are grown on our warm water hatcheries across the state. We have several of those, so not just one hatchery, but several hatcheries have grown out the fish. We’re stocking advanced, catchable bass. Georgia has pioneered that, 11-month-old bass we’re stocking. So, we’re really excited about getting the lake going and an angler caught a five-pound bass the other day. So, we’re getting some decent sized fish in the lake already.”
By: Damon Jones