Here’s a fishing trivia question for you. What southern reservoir has capacity to hold up to 98,000 acres of water when it’s totally full, but normally has a “recreation pool” of 32,500 acres in the spring, summer and early fall? Here’s a hint. It can get as low as 10,000 acres if conditions are right, or to be more accurate, wrong. Welcome to Sardis Reservoir, a huge flood control lake area located in northern Mississippi just an hour south of Memphis. The reservoir usually starts out the year low, then fills with spring rains and is held level for the summer. A slow controlled drop begins in the Fall to allow it to hold as much potential flood water as possible in the winter. Sardis has a 1,545 square mile watershed that fills the reservoir. During droughts, the lake has been drawn down and not been replenished for months, leaving it a mere puddle of its former self.
Sardis is at the top of the list for crappie fishermen. Strict management and the rich, fluctuating water protects the reservoirs’ health to provide a wealth of great fishing for anglers wise to its bounty. Crappie fishing is good year round and just about every technique and lure can be incorporated into success on Sardis. Bass fishing is also popular here for the same reason — lots of great fishing in a variety of habitats. Spring is the easiest time to catch largemouths because they head into the shallows and along the miles of shoreline, looking for grass beds, shallow coves or old sunken timber. Bass fishing gets a little tougher in the summer, but anglers who find the fish usually find them in bunches. There are several huge flood control lakes in this region, but Sardis is known for big bass where some of the others are more known for numbers. There are also good populations of spotted and white bass in the lake, and catfish anglers catch some whopper blue, channel and flathead catfish in the lake. Putting out catfish structures is regulated, but anglers can put them out and then “noodle” or hand-fish for the big ones. It’s a popular sport in this part of the country. For family fishing fun, the old timbered areas up in the coves produce big bluegills and redear sunfish, mostly in the spring and summer months. But back to the crappie. Crappie tend to move around a lot on the lake, but at the same time, there is good fishing from one end of the lake to the other. When the water is lower, the odds are obviously more in favor of the anglers but even when fish spread out, they are abundant. Jigs are popular here as are shiners, but there is some great crankbait trolling and small Roadrunner type spinner fishing on the lake. One top area for fishing is near the Sardis Lake Marina. Even the marina itself produces great catches of crappie in warmer weather. The fish like to bunch up under the covered boat docks in 15-20 feet of water. The key is to get your bait back between boats and slips and into the tightest cover you can find. Thompson and Clear Creek areas are two spots that fishermen like to spider rig, or slow troll on. Double minnow rigs are good here. In late spring and summer, trolling with crank baits becomes a go to technique and one of the top spots is the Holiday Lodge area. The area in front of the spillway was cleared of timber when the lake was built. Tributary creeks were not cleared and have stumps and fallen timber. In all areas of the lake crappie seem to key on creeks and other drop-offs with structure. One reason for that is because that is usually where the baitfish go too.
Rules and regulations are important on every lake, but make sure you check the size limit and possession limit restrictions and even rules about the numbers of poles and lures allowed per boat here, especially for crappie. Since the lake does fluctuate so much, there are several good websites available that keep anglers up to date on water levels and any ramps or marinas that might be closed in severe low water. If you plan to take a trip here, it’s a good idea to become familiar with those sites. Some popular landings include Lower Lake Boat Ramp, Engineer’s Point; Beach Point; Cole’s Point, Pat’s Bluff, Clear Creek, Coontown Landing, Hurricane Landing, Wyatt’s Crossing, Teckville Landing. John W. Kyle State Park is also an excellent place to stay and fish. Sardis is a small town, but Oxford is just a few miles south of the lake and you can always travel north to Memphis. Both have numerous options for lodging, entertainment, food and more.