Former Bastrop resident James Morgan fished Bussey Brake for decades back in the old days and caught untold numbers of crappie, including several three-pound crappie. So he was excited to get back to the lake on Jan. 23 for the first time since it reopened last summer to try again.
He was rewarded beyond his own expectation. He flipped a Jimmy Watt black and chartreuse jig with a pink head way back up in the brush and pulled out a 3.32 pound black crappie on his 11-foot Ozark Rod armed with a Martin fly reel. The fish, if certified, will rank No. 6 in the Louisiana State Fish Records. He weighed it on certified scales at K&M Coffee, Corks and Camo in Farmerville.
“Saturday was kind of a miserable morning,” Morgan said. “It was misty rain and foggy and that’s not a good place for somebody that wears glasses, but I went anyway. “Catching that fish made it worthwhile. I caught several, but that’s the only one I kept.
Crappie head deep
Crappie fishermen were worried last summer and into the fall that Bussey might not return to its glory days for crappie because they were hard to catch. But cold weather has sent them to the deeper holes and the lake is producing some good catches right now.
“I was way up in some thick brush and I had broken off a couple of times earlier,” Morgan said. “I usually fish braid line with a short monofilament leader on it. But I went to straight braid because of the conditions and I’m glad I did.
“When that fish first hit, it really nailed it and I thought for sure it was a catfish. When it started pulling, I just knew it wasn’t a crappie but when I caught a glimpse of it the first time, I got pretty excited. I hardly ever use a dip net, but I used it on this one.”
Morgan said Bussey was drained for so long that the lake bottom grew up in bushes and small trees and that is great for fishing. At 2,200 acres, it isn’t a large lake and when fishing pressure gets too heavy on the fish in certain areas, they will move out of the deeper holes and scatter in that brush. That’s the situation right now, he said. He also said this was obviously a fish that had been in there for five to seven years and wasn’t one of the fish restocked in the last couple of years.
Bussey Brake is the only Louisiana state owned Wildlife Management Area that is a lake. The lake was donated to the state by International Paper and went through a long renovation before being reopened in 2020. It is located in Morehouse Parish about five miles north of Bastrop and has an improved launching area and parking lot on the north end.
“My hope is that people will be responsible in managing the fishery in this lake and help it get back to the good old days where there are plenty of fish to catch for sport and for eating. Everybody plays a role in that by fishing and harvesting responsibly, especially in these first few years. Some of the popular spots in the lake is like playing bumper boats right now because they get crowded. But there are fish in other areas. You just have to spend some time looking and fishing.”
The fish population, though not fully mature, is able to sustain fishing at this time. Special LDWF fishing regulations have been put in place on Bussey Brake to protect the young and expanding fishery, and to hopefully ensure a quality fishing experience for all anglers. The regulations for crappie are 25 daily with a 10-inch minimum length limit. All fishing gears other than rod-n-reel or cane pole are prohibited.
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