Hope Harrington Oakes
Some Lowndes County residents can remember back to the days of lazy hot afternoons fishing on the side bank of a pond in east Columbus. For years, the Public Catfish Ponds served the locals who wanted to catch their own fresh fish to eat. The ponds were owned and operated by Charlie and Cheryl Clark for many years, but due to health issues, they had to stop running it. It sat unused for many years, until local electrician, Mark Reed, bought the business. The Clarks still live across the road from the farm and visit often. The parents of Johnny House, a neighbor, actually started the business back in the sixties and ran it for about 12 to 14 years and then closed it. It sat unused for a couple of years. Mr. Clark said, “I was sitting on my butt, not doing anything and my son was out of a job, so we opened it back up and ran it until my heart attack.” The setting is absolutely gorgeous with the ponds, trees and lots of nature to see. There are 30 acres to the property, but about 10 acres of ponds. When Reed bought the business, he spent aa lot of time cleaning up the place with the help of his children. His son, Preston, who, along with some of his friends, help out with various jobs around the ponds: weighing, cleaning and dressing the fish.
Open every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., the Public Catfish Pond is located at 130 Hillcrest Drive in east Columbus, just off Highway 182 East. Reed charges a $2 entry fee, $1 for Senior Citizens, and children 10 and under get in free. They charge $3 a pound – 1 pound to 9 pounds, and for 10 pound or greater, the charge is $2.50 a pound. They will also clean your fish for 60 cents a pound. One of the features of the venue is a cart that will come and pick you, your equipment and your day’s catch up from anywhere around the ponds and help you get back to the weighing and cleaning station. Reed stated, “Yeah, it sure is hard to lug all that heavy stuff around, especially if you’ve have a real good day of fishing.” Reed will go out and catch fish for customers who want the fish, but don’t have the time to actually fish. As long as the customer will call ahead to give them time to catch them, he’s happy to do it.
Customers Sammie and Kendrick Hill caught a mess of fish, with the biggest one weighing in at almost 9 pounds. Reed’s helpers jumped right in beginning the process of weighing and cleaning the fish. Sammie Hill said, “I’m glad he’s opened. We love to fish.”
Doing something he loves is a great experience for Reed. He wants everyone to have a great time doing something that is relaxing and fun. “I hope that people have a lot of good memories coming out here. That’s really the main thing is that they have a good time with their families. That’s what it’s all about: a lot of kids catching a fish for the first time of their lives and the stuff that they’ll remember forever. “ For more information visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/publiccatfishpond or call 662-386-8591.