For 25 years, the Jones family has owned and operated Wellspring Fisheries in Sharkey County with few setbacks. This year, however, the family has faced numerous unforeseen challenges.
Flood waters are still on the rise in the Mississippi Delta, and Bobby Jones, the co-owner of Wellspring Fisheries, can attest. After experiencing the impact of rising floodwaters for four months now, the Jones family has taken measures to protect their ponds from flooding for the first time in 25 years.
Jones and his family own 102 catfish ponds in Sharkey County, and out of those, 22 have been impacted by floodwaters. Preventative measures to avoid flooding on the fishery have been extensive, but Jones and his crew are still working hard to ensure production continues as normal.
“We’ve had to pull levees to increase our exterior levee height to keep water from coming in on us,” Jones said. “We’ve also had to stage on what pond we’re stocking for the baby fish based on where the flood water is and where we think we might get flood water. Overall, our production hasn’t stopped through all of this; it has just been difficult to strategize where we will be placing our baby fish coming out of the hatchery because we don’t want to place them in a pond that will potentially flood.”
The backwater flooding combined with the excessive amount of rainwater from the spring will affect the amount of catfish produced this year. On average, the Jones’s fisheries hatch 75 million fish annually. This year, though, Jones predicts they will be lucky to hatch 50 million. Despite the anticipated drop in production, Jones and his crew are still working hard to care for the fish.
“We haven’t cut back on labor; we’ve actually been working harder and putting in more hours trying to protect our land and our investments,” Jones said.
Jones knows the floodwaters are not just impacting him and his business. He fears the floods are also affecting the row crop farmers, local part stores, restaurants, and many other related businesses, many of which will never recover from the loss experienced during this time.
“Sadly, I don’t see an end in sight,” Jones said. “I believe this will be a major issue for years to come. We need to continue talking to the legislators so we can get the pumps finished.”