Three lake deaths in 8 days spark talks of change


Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

LAKE COUNTY, Tenn.- It's one of the deadliest months on Reelfoot Lake that anyone can remember. Three fishermen have drowned since May 1.

Brent Work with the Samburg Volunteer Fire Department said the weather was a major factor in both accidents.

In the first, two fishermen died in the Keystone Pocket area of the lake after a short storm blew up. He said he thinks their boat hit a stump, throwing them into the water. 

The second, on May 9, Work said two brothers from Ohio we're fishing on the far side of the Lower Blue Basin and got caught there when the wind picked up.

Work said when winds hit 20-25 MPH it creates waves that cap between three and four feet high.

"If you don't take the waves exactly right, even an experienced person could get in trouble with that," he said. 

He got the call after their boat started taking on water. One man was able to grab a life jacket and swim to a duck blind to wait for help. The other man never got his jacket on and died.

Work said he thinks the deaths are serving as a wake-up call for both local fishermen and state park officials. He hopes they talk about making it mandatory for boaters to wear their life jackets and possibly consider wind advisories for the lake.

Meanwhile, nearly every campsite is reserved for Memorial Day Weekend and more patrols will be be watching.

"The main thing is to watch the weather and be prepared when you go, and if you don't have a good feeling about going, stay on the bank," he said.

Reelfoot Lake is a natural lake that averages about five feet deep and is filled with tree stumps. It is known for its excellent fishing, but also for the quick-changing conditions.