CHIDESTER – After many months of hard work, the gates on the water control structure of Lower White Oak Lake are now closed. The lake is gradually refilling.
Work on the water control structure began September 2012. Construction included replacing all corroded metal components of the water control structure with stainless steel materials. Crews also cleaned the structure and applied a waterproof coating to the inside and outside of the water control tower. A 60-foot long, 30-foot wide channel was dredged in front of the water control structure’s lower gate that will help keep silt and mud that has accumulated around the tower from washing against the lower gate after the lake is refilled.
During the renovation, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Fisheries Division crews took the opportunity to address the degrading fish habitat in Lower White Oak Lake. AGFC crews built 26 barrel and pallet fish structures, also known as Catfish Clubhouses, five pea gravel filled spawning beds that range from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet in size and seven large rock piles.
Using dead trees from the shoreline, along with stumps from the lake bed, AGFC crews built over 100 offshore brush shelters in different areas around the lake. Fisheries personnel also removed all nuisance stumps from existing boat lanes and constructed a new boat lane. The new boat lane is behind the island and connects the main boat lane going up the lake with the boat lane going toward White Oak Lake State Park. In addition, over 200 trees were hinge-cut around the shoreline of Lower White Oak Lake which significantly increases the amount of shoreline habitat for all species of fish and may also increase angler success by acting as fish attractors.
AGFC District Fisheries Biologist Jason Olive said biologists applied 1,100 tons of crushed agricultural limestone to the lake bed. “The addition of lime will increase the utilization of nutrients by microscopic plants and animals that make up the base of the food chain,” Olive said. “This should lead to more successful fish spawning and greater fish growth in future,” he added.
Now that construction is complete and the fish habitat has been addressed, the next step is to restock Lower White Oak Lake with fish. This phase of the project will be conducted gradually to increase the odds for successful establishment of various fish species. Depending on water levels, restocking of the lake with baitfish and catchable-size channel catfish should begin in spring 2013.