Lake Jacksonville looks ready for an early Spring this year. This past weekend, the parks and lakes department opened the lake for early inspection for campground owners. Brett Gilbreth, Lake Jacksonville site manager, says he hopes the ground dries up soon so the department can finish some projects before opening weekend in April. “We just got done clearing the back side of the dam. We had a lot of overgrown brush coming up over there. We’ve had a lot of help from the Greene County Boot Camp to help us get that under control. Right now, we’re concentrating on making some more points more accessible for the public. We are wanting to possibly open up a point or two that has been closed off for several years. We’ve been slowly working on them. Now, if the weather hold true, we will really be able to speed that process up and get it open for the clients so they can get out there and go fishing or picnic.”
Gilbreth says that bait fish, namely shad, are on their way back to make for better fishing at the Lake in several years. “We are very dependent on those bait fish on the feeding of the other fish. Last year we were actually starting to see nice, big schools of shad throughout the day. That to me is always a tell tale sign that things are starting to come back around. Without bait fish, it’s very hard to get those other fish to grow up and be something that anglers will want to chase. This is actually the first year in several that the lake has actually stayed at full pool for a whole year. That’s attributed to all the rain and snow that we’ve had, but that really helps us with spawning and bass spawning. When the water is low, it doesn’t give them as many opportunities or areas to spawn. I was really happy to see that this year. I feel like we are in a better place today than where we were two years ago, and I’ve been here 19 years.”
Gilbreth said they released several thousand largemouth bass from their rearing pond last year and hope to do the same this year to try to bring the lake back to its top angling years like the late 90s and early 2000s.
Gilbreth says he’s received some criticism for not spraying off vegetation from the lake. He says it’s a double-edged sword to both protect wildlife and to make the lake accessible. He said that the water vegetation allows coverage for younger fish to have from the heat as well as allows certain fish to get to the surface during the summer time for better fishing. However, he says he monitors the lake all throughout the warmer months to ensure that vegetation doesn’t get out of control. Gilbreth said it’s a day-by-day monitoring that takes place to see if spraying is necessary. “I really don’t like spraying, personally, but we have to maintain some control over it. We really have to wait until those warmer months to come before we can put together a game plan to see if we are going to spray for vegetation or not.”
The lake opens on April 1st but running water to the points won’t open until the Parks & Lakes Department deems it safe to turn them on. Gilbreth said they are trying to avoid burst pipes and problems that they’ve experienced over the last 5 years with late cold temperatures. Water will still be available at the shower house and the concession stand. For more information, contact the department at 479-4620.