CAMDEN – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists conducted electrofishing surveys of Upper and Lower White Oak Lake this week, with impressive results.
Andy Yung, an AGFC district fisheries supervisor, said the biologists found both bass and crappie up shallow in both ends of the lake. “We shocked quite a few fish,” he said. “We saw some fish upward of 7 pounds in both lakes. We saw lots of fish that were 4-5 pounds. They looked really good.”
The 57-year-old Lower White Oak Lake, which had a problem with its water control tower and which was well past the expected life of a healthy fishery, was drained in 2012 and rebuilt over the next two years. Beginning Jan. 1, anglers have been allowed to keep crappie they catch in Lower White Oak. The initial stocking class of bass has been protected with slot regulations; this year, White Oak regulations call for an 18- to 21-inch slot on bass, with anglers able to keep one fish longer than 21 inches and any under 18 inches, up to a 10-fish limit.
In late February, the AGFC Fisheries Division conducted a public meeting Upper White Oak Lake, providing an update on the fishery and soliciting public input for what anglers might want done to improve the fishery as the AGFC develops its management plan for the lake. Yung said that the majority of those attending the meeting at the AGFC’s regional office here were only concerned about whether the AGFC would drain Upper White Oak as it had done six years ago at Lower White Oak. Told “no,” by Yung, the attendees had no other concerns. “Other than that, it was uneventful,” Yung said. Draining Upper White Oak, he said, would wash out everything that has been put into improving Lower White Oak, he said.
“It wasn’t even an option,” Yung said.
One angler did ask if a 10-12-inch slot limit for crappie would be considered. Yung said biologists have determined that a 10-12-inch slot would only lead to a reduction in harvest for the average angler with very little increase or benefit to the fishery. “We’ve considered it but believe it would provide minimal gain there,” Yung said.
Yung says that with the renovation and the time to build up the fishery, anglers are experiencing at the 1,645-acre Lower White Oak the “new lake effect.” It’s as if Lower White Oak is newly emerged and teeming with hungry fish. The lake floor was rebuilt with new habit, the lake was refilled, nutrients released into the water, fish have lots of food without as many mouths to feed, and “there is always a boom in the fishery,” Yung said. Besides crappie and largemouth bass, the lake is producing redear sunfish, bluegill and catfish. Boat lanes were improved and marked, five large spawning beds were built and 102 large brush piles were built and placed around the lake, along with the hinging of cypress trees and the placement of 26 catfish “clubhouses” for spawning. Before the renovation, there were only about a dozen locations where habitat had been improved through the years.
“People like what they’re getting out of that fishery,” Yung said. “I don’t blame them. Having just shocked it(this week), they’ve got an impressive bass fishery right now and the crappie look real good. We also sampled them last fall and it was impressive. There’s nothing much to complain about right now.”