Honey Hole: Calling Panther Lake leads State Lakes in revenue

Published 5:04 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

JACKSON — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission met for its monthly meeting Wednesday morning. For the first time in several months, no public comments were made. 

Josh Howell was introduced as the new State Fishing Lakes Coordinator. He started with the department in 2009 as a fisheries biologist in Northwest Mississippi. He became a state lake supervisor in 2013 and was recently promoted to coordinator for all 20 state fishing lakes. He gave his first report on the fishing lakes. 

“Those lakes range from 55 to 882 acres. Our goals are to provide quality fishing experiences, a clean and safe environment and offer both boat and bank fishing access,” Howell said. “We want to offer as much opportunity as possible to the public for them to get out and fish.” 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Revenue from state park lakes is up in fiscal year 2022 compared to previous years and was just shy of $600,000. Calling Panther Lake in Copiah County brought in the most revenue of the 20 state fishing lakes midway through fiscal year 2023. Howell showed a graph which displayed nearly $60,000 in revenue came from Calling Panther Lake. 

“Most of that was due to camping revenue,” he said. “Annual permits were right behind that in revenue bringing in about $30,000.”

License sales, park upgrades 

Jason Thompson, License/Boater Registration Division Director, gave an update on revenue to the commission. MDWFP Commission Chairman Bill Cossar has said in previous meetings that 90 percent of the department’s budget is funded by license revenue. January’s revenue was up five percent, license sales were up $5,000, WMA permits were up three percent. Non-resident license sales were also up 4 percent with WMA permits up 3 percent. 

Brian Ferguson, State Parks Director, said a new online reservation system for state parks will launch on March 1, 2023. Guests will be able to reserve up to 13 months in advance of a date so if they are at a state park and decide they want to come back in a year they can. 

“Hopefully the customers will appreciate it. I know it will help us in numerous ways and make things easier,” Ferguson said. “It is a mobile friendly site. It should make things user friendly and go faster. You will need an online registered account with the agency. We will be able to use the data for marketing.” 

In other State Parks business, bids to renovate nine cabins at Percy Quin State park will open up soon. Percy Quinn State Park is located in Pike County near McComb. Ferguson said the MDWFP is looking in to adding Wifi to the state parks. 

Enforcement update

Col. Jerry Carter gave an update on Law Enforcement efforts in Mississippi for January. MDWFP officers issued 2,057 citations with the top violations being 192 for no license, 113 for hunting from a public road, 72 for trespassing, 70 for no orange and 64 for supplemental feeding. 

Additionally, Carter wanted to give a shoutout to efforts his officers did afield in January. His Special Response Team was called out to Tate County for a missing subject who had gotten lost while trying to wrangle up a calf and officers in Marion County are investigating a headlighting case. 

“SRT went to Tate County and found the man alive. They were able to get him stabilized until medical help could arrive,” Carter said. “It was cold during this time, you could see ice on the trees. They rendered medical attention and got him home safely. My officer in Marion County received a call about shots being fired killing two deer. He waited on the subjects to return and they did come back. Once they got the deer loaded in the vehicle he stopped them and all three subjects were juveniles. It is now pending and more updates will come.” 

Three men asked for their licenses to be reinstated after they lost hunting privileges due to killing deer from the road and spotlighting. Cossar hammered home to each one the dangers of shooting from the road and killing deer at night. He told them they had no way of knowing what was beyond their target. 

William Mounger II said their actions went against the practice of Fair Chase and ethical hunting. Two of the men had shot five deer one night in Brandon. They cleaned one deer but wasted the other four. The violators would not have been caught had it not been for social media and an MDWFP officer investigating the situation. 

“Kudos to my officers around the state for bringing violators to justice,” Carter said. “Thank you to the general public who have called 1-800-BeSmart to report these violations.” 

The commission noted the people asking for license reinstatements the past few months have mostly been caught due to the general public reporting shots fired at night.