Lake Jackson Photos Reveal Giant Slabs From 1971

Photos suggest several fish would have broken the current state record for crappie.

Brad Gill | May 8, 2019

The crappie fishing on Lake Jackson 48 years ago on Easter weekend may have been the best ever reported, anywhere in this state and at anytime! In fact, it’s very reasonable to speculate that during a four-day fishing trip from April 10-13, 1971, amongst a trio of brothers, at least one state-record crappie, maybe two, was caught in the Tussahaw Creek arm of Lake Jackson.

Last week I saw pictures of the amazing fishing trip from nearly five decades.

Ann Bowdoin, of Conyers, dropped by the GON office with two photos of two different stringer shots full of crappie. She’d been talking to me for about three months about these photos. We get a lot of similar phone calls, and I’ve learned through experience that seeing is believing.

Mrs. Bowdoin, you didn’t disappoint…

In the photos are her dad James Ivey and her uncle Bud Ivey standing in front of a 1971 Ford F100 pickup truck. The photos are from Monday, April 12, 1971 and Tuesday, April 13, 1971. There were no photos taken on Saturday and Sunday, so it’s anyone’s guess what they caught over the weekend. However, at least two of the crappie caught on that Monday and Tuesday appear to easily be in the 5-lb. range.

Just how big is that crappie to the right of (from left) Bud Ivey and James Ivey? It’s all speculation at this point, but it’s safe to say that this Lake Jackson crappie caught in 1971 would come close or surpass the state records for white and black crappie. This stringer of fish was caught on Monday, April 12, 1971.

The current state record for white crappie is 5 pounds, while Georgia’s black crappie record is 4-lbs., 4-ozs. It’s unclear from the photo quality whether the slabs were black or white crappie.

“There were three of them fishing,” said Mrs. Bowdoin. “Their brother Junior was taking the pictures. They ended up catching 250 fish in four days.”

Mrs. Bowdoin got a little teary-eyed at the GON office as she talked about her dad, James. He was born in 1917 and was one of 10 brothers and sisters.

“They were born in Good Hope (Walton County),” said Mrs. Bowdoin. “They heard about a sharecropping situation in Rebecca (Turner County) and went for it. Mom and the girls rode the train, and Dad and the boys took a mule drawn wagon. It took them a week to get there.”

Mrs. Bowdoin said that even though her dad spent plenty of time on the Turner County farm, he didn’t really hunt much. She said her dad couldn’t wait to get off work every day from the farm and find a shade tree and read a book.

“Dad said you can go anywhere you want to go in a book,” said Mrs. Bowdoin.

James moved to Atlanta in the late 1930s, but World War II put him in the U.S. Army where he served in Paris, France. He landed a typist job overseas because he could type 80 words a minute. After moving back to Atlanta, he eventually landed a job and retired from Georgia Highway Express trucking company as a rate clerk.

As he grew older, he enjoyed fishing and spending time in a small cabin that the family had in Tussahaw Creek on Lake Jackson. James’ brothers Junior and Bud were living the bachelor life and fished more than James did. The two brothers worked in Hapeville on Sylvan Road and fished every weekend while they also worked a big garden at their home together.

“They were all simple folks, but I think they were happy,” said Mrs. Bowdoin. “When they retired, Junior and Bud moved back to Rebecca, built a brick house and lived with a sister, Hazel, until they all died.”

Back in the early 1970s, Lake Jackson was home to a number of fish camps like the Ivey place where folks enjoyed the weekends with family and friends while putting fish away and enjoying some of the finest recreation God has to offer. There were no jet skis and wave runners blasting up and down the lake. There were just people fishing. James and some of his brothers fished from a 14-foot jonboat during that time. Their technique for catching all those slabs is not known, whether they preferred minnows under corks or pulling, pushing or casting jigs.

Mrs. Bowdoin’s brother James Ivey Jr. was the one who discovered the pictures from the 1971 Easter weekend, but he didn’t find them until the early 1980s. The brothers were still living at the time, so he was able to get the scoop on the trip.

“Everyone I’ve shown these pictures to has the same reaction,” said James. Jr. “They can’t believe how big the fish are. I’ve never heard of anyone catching crappie that big. They didn’t weigh them, though, and I don’t know that they reported it other than telling all of their relatives.”

Lake Jackson is no longer known for big numbers of slab crappie like the ones shown from 1971, although numbers of smaller fish can be caught. Current lake records for Jackson reveal that the largest recorded black crappie from Jackson weighed about 3 1/2 pounds, while the heaviest white crappie only goes a little more than a pound.

“That’s when fishing was good,” James Jr. said. “You don’t see a good volume of fish like that. People don’t really remember the lake; only old timers remember the way it used to be. You don’t see fish biting like they used to.”

Mrs. Bowdoin added, “They didn’t weigh or measure those fish. They probably could just look at them and tell how big they were. They were just thinking about all that good eating they were going to enjoy. Those two pictures were from just the morning catches from those two days.”

If you’ve got old stories with photos like this, send them to me at [email protected]. Personally, I enjoy hearing about the slower pace of life. So many times it seems like the hunting and fishing was pretty good back then, too.

Look at that slab in the middle! This stringer of Lake Jackson crappie was caught on Tuesday, April 13, 1971.

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