Highlights of the fishery at Harrison County Reservoir (280 acres) include good-quality channel catfishing, some nice-sized crappie, and the occasional largemouth bass over 20 inches. Channel catfish continue to show good growth and offer larger sizes with many fish over 24 inches. Catchable-sized channel catfish are stocked every other year at a rate of 10 fish per acre. The crappie population includes both white crappie and black crappie with most fish under 9 inches but some larger individuals up to 16 inches in our 2019 electrofishing surveys.
The fish population continues to adjust to the establishment of gizzard shad (source unknown) which were first reported in 2015. Electrofishing surveys in recent years have shown a general trend towards fewer largemouth bass, and fewer and smaller (slow growing) panfish species such as bluegill . Average catch rates for largemouth bass and bluegill in our surveys from 2016-2019 were about half of the average catch rates prior to the introduction of gizzard shad. Despite declines in abundance, sizes of largemouth bass remained good (10-21 inches) in 2019. Unfortunately, sizes of bluegill have declined from the nice-sized 8+ inchers to very few over 6 inches.
The presence of gizzard shad in the lake has definitely changed the fishery. Gizzard shad populations typically fluctuate greatly from year-to-year, depending weather patterns, which can result in positive or negative impacts to the fishery. Some years there may be high numbers of juvenile shad produced throughout the summer and this provides abundant forage for species like crappie and bass. Other years, shad spawning conditions may be short-lived or poor and small forage is then limited. Gizzard shad also consume large amounts of plankton which are important food sources for juvenile sport species and adult panfish, especially bluegill. The result can be slower growth rates for young or small sportfish. So, be prepared for changes in the fish population and this may mean occasional adjustments in angling strategies from past trips to the lake. Fishing during the spring spawning periods should remain similar to past years, but post-spawn angling may need some new approaches at times. Some species may adjust their feeding activities with changes in the shad population and respond to lures that imitate shad. Other fish will continue to use the various brush piles recently submerged around the lake, shallow vegetation, and bite on jigs, prepared and natural baits. Keep trying different approaches until you find what works!
Water conditions in Harrison County Lake vary from very turbid (muddy) during exceptionally wet periods, to moderately clear during drier times when runoff in the watershed is minimal. Higher nutrient levels promote good fish growth, but occasionally create algal blooms which become intense at times.