(AGFC Fisheries Dist. 3) Warmer than normal spring weather pushed the electro fishing sampling season ahead by about 2 weeks. All 6 public fishing lakes in northeast Arkansas have been sampled. Below is lake by lake summary of what was found.
Lake Hogue – The lake was loaded with small largemouth bass, most of which were less than 13 inches long. A few good size bass were seen, but not very many. The positive side of Hogue is that the bream population is looking very good. Many nice bluegill and redears were observed. Jeremy reported that he saw several "shellcrackers" that were in the 1 ½ lb. range.
One of the best remedies for the small bass overload is for anglers to begin harvesting small bass. Ideally, removing 8 to 10 lbs. of small bass per acre on an annual basis would make a huge difference in the quality of the bass fishery. Our last creel survey showed that very few bass were being taken out by fishermen.
Lake Charles – For the second year in a row Charles can easily claim the top spot as northeast Arkansas' premier bass fishery. We saw one big bass after another. Fifteen (15) 20" fish were collected in a little over 2 hours of shocking. Many more 16" and larger bass were taken as well. Once upon a time Charles had the same small bass overload problem as Lake Hogue does now. Fishermen were encouraged to harvest small bass for several years. Thanks to their (your) efforts the strategy paid off and Charles' bass fishery ranks as one of the best in the state.
An observation that is notable is that tons of small shad and other forage fish were seen while sampling. The presence of so much food is good for the bass population but may make catching a big bass problematic. Consider it a good test for your angling skills.
Lake Poinsett – Although it isn't in Lake Charles' class as an outstanding bass fishery Poinsett displayed a well-balanced bass population. We saw a few 20" fish as well as a good number bass greater than 16". Poinsett did contain a relatively large number of bass smaller than 13". The lake could stand an increase in harvest rates for this small size bass.
One thing that does bother me a bit about the lake is that it doesn't seem to have an abundance of forage. It may be that the annual fertilization program that used to be conducted needs to be restarted to encourage more forage fish production.
Poinsett's bream population showed a mixed bag as well. Some nice keeper bluegill and redears were observed but nothing like what was seen at Lake Hogue. Most of these panfish were sub-harvest size.
Lake Ashbaugh – I didn't think that it was possible for Ashbaugh's bass population to be worse than what was seen in 2011. I was wrong. Two hours of electrofishing produced only 11 largemouth bass. This lake's bass population seems to be resisting efforts to produce positive results. Annual fingerling stocking (50,000) doesn't appear to be working. There is a possibility that many bass are holding up in the thick willow brakes on the south end. This fall we plan to shock the lake again once the water level has receded out of the willows and see if we can collect more fish.
One thing that drew our attention was the number of flathead catfish that were seen. They were everywhere. Most were less than 8" long but many were seen that were up to 7 to 8 lbs. If you are a jug or trotline fishermen you may want to consider a trip to Ashbaugh in the near future.
Mallard Lake – Low water level prevented us from doing our usual electrofishing route. All sampling was done on the west side because there wasn't enough water to work the east side. The bass collected were no surprise. Most were greater than 14". Catch rates were around 25 fish per hour which isn't great but not too bad either.
We were hoping that last year's flood event hadn't devastated the lake's fish population. From what we saw during sampling, Mallard Lake still has a pretty good bass and crappie fishery.
By the way, Mallard's water level is low to facilitate the repair of a leaking pipe on the north levee. The original plan called for the work to only take 1 week but as usual once the project was begun, unexpected complications called for some new parts to be ordered that will take 6 to 8 weeks to get in. Mallard may be low for a while.
Lake Frierson – No surprises here. Most of the fish picked up were greater than 16" long. Catch rates seemed to be better than what has been seen the last several years but they were still not very good.
We were really interested in getting a good look at the saugeyes in Frierson. The largest saugeye taken was 26 ½". One half of all saugeye collected were 1 year old and were about 7" long. None had been freeze branded. A brand would signify that the fish had been grown to a larger size at the Jim Hinkle trout facility before being stocked last fall. This year more fingerlings will be grown out to an advanced size using different grow-out strategies to see which technique works best.