A recent meeting with fishermen casting about for ways to improve Okhissa Lake produced at least two keepers: Ramp up the battle on invasive giant salvinia, and lower the lake to fight other plants and improve fishing.
Homochitto National Forest Ranger Jonny Fryar hosted the public meeting about management plans for the lake, and about 20 fishermen showed up, most of them from a Thursday night fishing group, he said.
Fryar updated them on efforts to battle giant salvinia, a nonnative aquatic plant that clogs the water.
Currently the U.S. Forest Service has a boom across a 40-50-acre inlet by the south ramp to contain the floating vegetation.
“It’s doing a good job of keeping it from moving out,” Fryar said, noting a little has crept out around the edges.
He suspects a fisherman inadvertently introduced the plant into the lake by launching a contaminated boat at the south ramp. The weed is transported from lake to lake via boats and trailers.
The Forest Service is working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Franklin County Extension Service in fighting the weed.
Herbicides are being applied, and Louisiana State University is looking into releasing a salvinia-eating weevil at Okhissa.
“We’re not sure the weevil will survive this far north,” Fryar said.
If it does, “with biological control and spraying, we’ll be ahead of the game.”
Next week the Forest Service will begin slowly lowering the lake four or five feet, Fryar said.
“That will also kill some of the aquatic vegetation,” he said. “Not only will it help control weeds but improve fishing next year.”
Lowering the lake will also allow native grasses to spring up.
“When we flood it back, so we’ve been told, that grass will act like fertilizer and actually improve the lake,” Fryar said.
“It will be a cheap way to reduce weeds.”
The lake will remain lowered through the winter.
Fishermen at the meeting offered other suggestions, such as stocking the lake with threadfin shad, building a covered fish-cleaning shed and re-evaluating the slot limit.
“We’re going to take these first couple of steps and see what we can do,” Fryar said,
Giant salvinia is one of many aquatic plants in the lake. Some of them are native and beneficial to fish.
“There was a lot of consensus that we don’t want to get rid of all those weeds,” Fryar said. (See article below.)
Also present was Joseph Parker of Scenic Rivers Development Alliance, which plans to develop 150 acres at the lake to bring in more tourists and fishermen.
Those plans are still in the preliminary stage, with Scenic Rivers waiting for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to fund a feasibility study. Still, those plans are another incentive to get Okhissa into good shape, Fryar said.