Oct. 17, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
HUGHES - More than 100 local anglers and business owners joined the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Thursday, October 4, in officially dedicating the first public boating access to Horseshoe Lake in Crittenden County. Nancy and Pat Bonds Access Area is named for the couple who donated the land to make the new free access possible.
Horseshoe Lake has been a popular destination for decades, attracting anglers from all over Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. However, because the Mississippi River oxbow lake is surrounded by private land, accessing its waters has been on a pay-per-use basis.
“There’s always been one or two people willing to let you launch from a private ramp for a small fee, but you never know if things will change in the future,” said Justin Homan, AGFC regional fisheries biologist. “Thanks to the Bonds’s generous donation, there will always be a place for people to launch a boat and enjoy this fantastic lake.”
The AGFC was able to not only enhance the old ramp previously operated by the Bonds, but was able to create a full-fledged boating facility, complete with a double-wide concrete boat ramp, courtesy dock and a large asphalt parking area with space for up to 30 boat trailers.
“It used to just be a gravel lot and a little area of low-cut grass next to the ramp,” Homan said. “We hope the improvement helps anglers access this already popular fishery.”
Even with the donation, the total cost of the project was $260,000.
Ben Batten, chief of fisheries for the AGFC, says Marine Fuel Tax funds were used to build the ramp and parking lot.
“The Arkansas Department of Transportation places a portion of taxes from fuel sales they estimate are used in boats within the state into a fund,” Batten said. “That fund is then used to pay for projects throughout the state that help to increase boating access. This can include roads leading from highways to boating accesses as well as boat ramps, parking lots and courtesy docks."
Batten says anglers, recreational boaters and even fuel used for commercial traffic on Arkansas’s waters are factored into the disbursement.
“It’s a great way to ensure all users of the resource help pay for improvements, not just the anglers,” Batten said.
Homan says the ramp has already seen heavy use since its completion, and expects even more use as the fall crappie fishing season kicks into full swing in the next few weeks.
“From our most recent creel surveys, nearly 50 percent of anglers on Horseshoe target crappie,” Homan said. “Bass anglers are a close second, with bream and catfish both having healthy followings as well.”