The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is drawing down the waters of Lake Chicot and Cane Creek Lake in an effort to strengthen the fish population, vegetation and overall ecosystem.
Lake Chicot is still open to people for boating, water-skiing, swimming and fishing during the draw-down, which occurs every five years, Game and Fish Commission District 5 biologist supervisor Diana Andrews said. The lowering of the water level by six feet enables predator fish species such as bass to increase its predation of smaller species of fish, she said.
Lake Chicot is a natural oxbow lake, meaning it formed from a meandering main river. The river has since rerouted itself and is not connected to the oxbow lake, which is in the shape of a crescent.
Oxbow lakes flood naturally in the spring and become drier in the summer, she said. The drawdown of the water causes more of the bank to be exposed, she said. As a result, the vegetation along the banks and in the water provides a more suitable habitat for smaller fish to breed and hide from larger predator species of fish, she said. The vegetation also releases more nutrients into the lake, adding to its vitality, she said.
Lake Chicot averages 15 feet deep and reaches a maximum of 30 feet, Andrews said. The body of water is east of the town of Lake Village in far southeastern Arkansas. The daily creel limits for Lake Chicot during the drawdown is five bass, 25 bream combined, five catfish (flatheads and blues combined), 10 crappies (combined) and no limit on channel catfish, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Lake Village Chamber of Commerce President Joey Williamson said he has heard positive and negative reactions regarding the drawdown of water. People are critical of the timing in light of an upcoming fishing tournament scheduled for late September on Lake Chicot. As a result, fewer people are signing up to participate, he said.
“From a sportsman’s point of view, I understand the reasons behind the drawdown,” Williamson said. “But from a business standpoint, I believe [the Game and Fish Commission] could have waited until after the fishing tournament this year. We do not have too many dollars flowing through here. We rely on tourism. We do not have industry.”
People have been cancelling reservations at South Shore Cottages as a result of the water levels being lowered, South Shore Cottages owner Tracey Medford said. The lowering water levels means people are not boating, which means they do not want to visit Lake Chicot.
“Economically, the drawdown is hurting Lake Village,” Medford said. “I am losing business from people cancelling. … I had a wedding party scheduled for October cancel because they wanted to take pictures with the lake in the background.”
Cane Creek Lake is an artificial body of water in Star City and is open for only fishing during the drawdown, Andrews said. The daily creel limits during the drawdown are five bass, 25 bream (combined), five catfish (combined) and seven crappie (combined), according to the commission.
Cane Creek State Park Superintendent Walt Reding welcomes the drawdown and expects the removal of stumps will bring more people to the lake. The purpose of the drawdown on Cane Creek Lake is to locate an existing boat ramp, mark the boat lanes and remove debris, including fallen trees, he said.
“The lake is difficult to navigate now because of tree stumps and other debris,” Reding said. “I think we will see a benefit in 2015 because the lake will be easier to navigate. … I have heard from many people who used to fish at Cane Creek but left because of poor navigation lanes caused by too many stumps and other debris in the water.”
July and August are usually slower periods, as people stay away because of the hot weather and biting insects, Reding said. Anglers should benefit from the drawdown this fall too because there will be the same number of fish in a smaller volume of water, he said.