John Lomax knows life on the lake

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
John Lomax is one of the few commercial fishermen left on Big Lake. He is shown with a boatload of buffalo. (photo provided)

If you have lived in Manila any time at all, then you surely know John Lomax. He definitely lives an outdoor lifestyle, and always has. John literally grew up on the banks at Big Lake, a place he has called home his whole life.

His Father, J.C. (Clem) Lomax, was a commercial fisherman at Big Lake for decades where John grew up learning how to build his own tackle, including trammel nets, snag lines, limb lines, and trot lines. As far back as he can remember he has been harvesting fish from Big Lake and its tributaries, by age 12 he was going out on his own and setting his own tackle to bring fish to market.

"I still enjoy doing it as much today as I did when I was a child," John said, as he recalled all the hours he has spent in a boat on the waters of Big Lake.

"I also enjoy building and mending the nets, and rigging snag lines. It takes a lot of time; if you had to pay someone to build your tackle you would never be able to recover the cost," he said.

A lot of people overlook the rougher species of fish, mainly because of the time and expertise it takes to clean the fish correctly. There is an art to fileting and cleaning these fish, something that John is an expert at. I can tell you first hand, they make fine table fare when cleaned correctly.

Growing up on Big Lake and it being such an integral part of his life has given John a special insight to the fishery. He is part of a culture that is slowly coming to an end. "There are just not a lot of younger people interested in commercial fishing any more. As a matter of fact, I am the youngest man that commercially fishes Big Lake," John explained. There are only three other fishermen currently commercial fishing the lake. If this trend continues, the health of the resource will be in jeopardy.

Commercial fishing is vital to the health of any fishery. The scaled rough fish, such as drum, carp, and gar, are not a prey item for the most part, and are not targeted by recreational anglers with traditional equipment. This causes over population and presents a major problem to any fishery. All the fish within the ecosystem compete for a limited amount of food, over population by any particular species or group of fish puts a great strain on the other populations, such as game fish like bass, crappie, and bream.

It has been said that an adult Longnose Gar can eat its own weight in live fish per day. That means there are a lot of young game fish being consumed by these predators everyday. So as you can see, the role of the commercial fisherman goes much farther than just providing meals to local families, they play a major role in conservation as well.

If you are looking for some fresh fish, stop by and see John. He keeps live fish on hand and will be glad to share the bounty with you.

If you or someone you know lives the Outdoor Lifestyle and would like to be featured in this article, give Larry L. Towell a call at 870-351-5437 or email at

(Special thanks to Jeremy Bennett for article referral and Aaron Mize for photos.)

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