It was a great weekend for coming back to Newton Lake after a two-month shutdown due to the fight against coronavirus.


Flora residents Ashley McElroy and Kimberly Forbes were having good luck fishing from shady bank near the westside boat ramp parking lot, which was half full on the morning of Saturday, May 30, with pickups and boat trailers, including some from Indiana and Missouri. Both women like many other anglers were glad to have Newton Lake reopened.


“We’re glad it is open. We have missed it,” said McElroy. They had tried other smaller state lakes that opened earlier in May but traveling to Newton Lake has been a favorite for them through the years.


“This is our spot. The water is so nice today and we’ve caught some bluegill,” Forbes said.


Chris James and his younger son, Gunner, were loading up their bass boat with equipment after fishing on the lake, located a few miles from their Jasper County home. Chris was satisfied to have Newton Lake open again but said it did not make any sense that fishing was banned there and on other state-managed lakes for too long due to the stay-at-home order over COVID-19.


“They should never have closed them. They want us to social distance but there is no better place to do it than on a lake fishing. They kept everyone in their homes when they could have been enjoying the outdoors,” said Chris, who has been fishing on Newton Lake for 30 years. “It’s open and beautiful. It’s a natural resource.”


The James family caught up on lost time by reeling in fish both on Friday and Saturday. Chris ventured out with his older son, Jack, on Friday, the date for the reopening of all state lakes and parks. They threw their catches back after both outings. Some catches later might go on the grill.


They were part of the huge crowd that showed up Friday morning for dipping their boats and hooks again in Newton Lake. “There were long lines but once the gates opened up everything went fine,” Chris said.


Ashley Shook of Hidalgo was taking her first trip fishing on Newton Lake Saturday with Jeremy Shook, both of Hidalgo. “I’ve never been fishing on Newton Lake. We usually go out on Sam Parr though,” Ashley said as Jeremy prepared to start the motor on their long boat.


When asked what he was hoping to catch, Jeremy answered without hesitation, “Anything that bites!” He picked that strategy up from his uncle, Richard Shook, Jeremy’s fishing mentor.


“The best thing about this lake is the size of the fish. There’s better luck here than anywhere else,” Jeremy said as they pulled away from the dock.


Near the rocks of the southside dam, Ron Hamby of Litchfield and Darvin Hamby from Newton were casting their lines in the dark blue water of the lake. There was a good breeze blowing as well.


They were excited to be out on such a sunny Saturday. But they noted Friday brought them better luck. One of them surmised the cool water might have jinxed their second day.


“But that’s fishing!” Ron said with a smile.


It will be another summer for anglers to travel miles and flash many smiles on Newton Lake.