In 1927 the Jackson Bluff Dam was constructed on the Ochlockonee River to produce hydroelectric power. The waters held back by the dam formed Lake Talquin.
In 1971, approximately 20,000 acres (80 km²) of uplands and 10,000 acres (40 km²) of lake bottom were donated by the Florida Power Corporation to the State of Florida to form Lake Talquin State Recreation Area. Much of the shore of the lake is part of Lake Talquin State Park, one of Florida's State Parks. The waters that now cover Lake Talquin’s floodplain are shallow except along the old channel of the river. The abundance of dead trees and stumps scattered about are reminders of the rich floodplain forest that once covered the area before the lake was formed. Most of the stumps can be found right under the water on the eastern end of the lake causing problems for boaters.
Tallahassee Democrat 7/29/2011
Lake Jackson’s big bass
It’s no mystery that Lake Jackson harbors some huge bass, so many so that it is, or rather was, considered one of the top 10 big bass lakes in the country. For years magazines like Field and Stream raved about the huge 15-pound bass that were routinely caught there. Jackson lost that distinction because she decided to go on yet another vacation to wherever it is disappearing lakes go. Lake Jackson, you see, experiences natural water drawdowns, also known as dewatering, drydown, or simply draining. She leaks.
Lake Jackson appears to have taken these vacations many times. The first recorded instance of a draining was in 1907. The lake also disappeared, either partially or fully, in 1909, 1932, 1935, 1936, 1957, 1982, 1999, and 2007. Native Americans living in the area named the lake Okeegeepkee, which in Creek means “Disappearing Waters.” Apparently the water has been draining out for centuries.
But the water came back, and with it each time the big bass. The question is, where were these big fish when the water left? And how did they get back fully grown? Legend has it the fish escaped through some of the sinkholes that many think are connected through underground passages and caverns to rivers like the Ochlockonee. And why not? Recently divers were able to explore more than 20 miles of underwater caves and caverns in the Wakulla-Leon Sinks. Why not a connection in Lake Jackson?
There are no significant surface rivers or creeks connected to the lake for either filling or draining. The water in Lake Jackson theoretically gets there from runoff of the surrounding 27,000-acre closed drainage area, and leaves through sinkholes, the two largest of which are Lime Sink and Porter Hole sink. But there are many more sinkholes lining the bottom of the lake.
Michael Hill of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), a fisheries biologist in the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, has actually climbed down into Porter Hole Sink when it was dry and peered into some of the exposed passages. They weren’t big enough for a person to pass through, but maybe a fish could. He said there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of sinkholes on the bottom of Jackson. Sinkholes are easy to identify, as they are almost always round depressions. Aerial photos showed many of them during this last dry period. So why couldn’t water flow into the lake as well as out, if there was a connection?
Hill doesn’t think so. He believes the fish anglers are catching now simply found sanctuary in the sinkholes that didn’t dry out and waited until the water returned. He added that he didn’t think fish could survive the long passage underground without light or adequate oxygen. (Most oxygen in water comes from surface contact with the atmosphere.)
Andy Strickland is another fisheries biologist, but with the FWC Research Institute. He agrees with Hill that the bass caught today are survivors of the drawdown. “We’ve been sampling the fish stranded in pools for several years and they have been healthy,” he said. “Some of those isolated pools could be a couple of hundred acres across.” The bigger pools were in the Crowder, Church’s Cove and Miller’s Landing area. Strickland said that as far as he knows, the bottoms of these secondary pools are porous lime rock covered with lake sediment, a barrier impossible for fish to swim through. Or are they? Neither he nor Hill had any knowledge of divers going into the surviving pools to check on the bottom conformation. And Strickland didn’t know of any tagging operations going on in Lake Jackson that might be able to trace the migration of bass living there.
Strickland and Hill attribute the large bass to an abundance of food for them to eat. Surviving with the bass in the pools have been bream, shiners, crappie and other food fish. When the water came back, the population of the forage fish exploded. It was nature’s way. The largemouth bass then went on a feeding orgy for years. No wonder they are so big.
Captain J.R. Mundinger fishes Lake Jackson extensively. He says the big bass are back in force. Many fish weighing in excess of 8-10 pounds have been taken, some on live shiners, others on various lures like the Stinger-Dinger (his own invention for fishing on Jackson).
At weekly weigh-ins, for a night-fishing tournament he runs throughout the summer on the lake, he’s been seeing bigger and bigger bass come to the scales. The contests, out of the Sunset Landing boat ramp on Thursday evenings, have been drawing more anglers every week as word of the outstanding fishing spreads.
He too has an opinion on where the big bass came from so quickly. “I think the habitat is so great in Jackson that the fish can’t help but grow huge,” he said. “They can get back into the lily pads and hydrilla and just feed all day long. They don’t have to work hard to get food.”
Mundinger doesn’t think the bass leave during low water either, but rather hunker down in the bigger pools that remain and slow down their growth rate to match whatever food is available. When the water comes back, they start feeding heavily and grow fast.
But what happens when ALL the water goes away, if it ever does? Is there anybody left who remembers drawdowns during the fiercely-hot 1930s, when most of the high-temperature records were set in Tallahassee? Are there any of grandpa’s recollections to pass on?
So there you have it, two knowledgeable scientists and a professional fishing guide on one hand, and a legend that goes back who knows how long on the other. But remember, most legends have at least some basis in fact. What are your opinions? Send them to Gerardigb@aol.com. As for me, I think this myth is…busted!
JR & Todd Nedley with 30 lbs to win United Rentals Tourny!
July 17 UNITED RENTALS
JR Mundinger & Todd Nedley with just under 25 lbs wins June Xtreme Tourney ledge fishing