Lake Chicot drawdown begins this summer
LAKE VILLAGE - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will reduce the water level on Lake Chicot beginning July 7. The lake will be lowered to the 100 feet mean sea level mark by Aug. 18.
A public meeting will be held on Feb. 13 to inform the public of the AGFC’s plans for the drawdown. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Lake Village Fire Department. The meeting also will include the Lake Chicot Citizens Advisory Committee.
This drawdown is part of the Lake Chicot Management Plan, which recommends a drawdown every five years. The purpose of the drawdown is to mimic the natural cycle that takes place in oxbow lakes connected to rivers, according to AGFC district fisheries supervisor Diana Andrews. “Oxbow lakes go through an annual cycle of high and low water levels, dependent upon seasonal rainfall. The water levels in the lakes gradually recede during the summer months, which constricts the fish into a smaller body of water,” Andrews said. “This allows the predator fish to feed heavily on the forage fish species. Consequently, the predator fish species are fatter and healthier during the next years spawning season,” she explained. The prey species also benefit from this scenario, Andrews added. “Many prey species can easily become overpopulated in a body of water. The heavy foraging of the predator species keeps the prey species population in balance.”
The land that is exposed during the summer months is allowed to dry out and harden. Lakes that have a constant water level develop a mushy silt layer on the bottom, Andrews says. “This causes problems for the fish when they try to make nests. Vegetation grows on the exposed banks of the lakes. This vegetation is flooded the next spring when the water levels rise. The flooded land and vegetation add nutrients to the lake and cover for you fish after hatching” she said.
The young fish also utilize the flooded vegetation as places to hide after they have hatched. Lake drawdowns produce the same effect as the summer and fall lower water levels on oxbow lakes. Andrews sees the drawdown as a way to prepare the fish for the spawn. “The fish in Lake Chicot will forage heavily this summer and fall and will be in better condition during the 2015 spawn. Excellent bass and crappie spawns are produced during the spring after a drawdown,” she said.
The gates will be closed Jan. 1, 2015 so the lake can fill back to normal pool by the spawning season.
Lake Chicot Drawdown Presentation
Lake Chicot Citizens Advisory Committee Presentation