Nov. 21, 2019
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
MANILA — Repairs have been completed to the water control structure at Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and waterfowl unters who were planning to hunt in Big Lake Wildlife Management Area in northeast Arkansas should find ample water by opening day.
Big Lake WMA is a 12,320-acre area owned and managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that borders Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which is owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The area is very popular with duck hunters due to its location next to the federal refuge area and its distinction as one of the few remaining large tracts of bottomland hardwood forests in northeast Arkansas.
An electrical problem affected the NWR's infrastructure designed to flood portions of Big Lake WMA. For the electric company handling the repair work, water had to be kept below a certain level this week, which then affected the amount going into the WMA.
Normally, the NWR's water control structure would allow water to flow around the refuge and down a canal labeled “Ditch 28,” which supplies water for much of the WMA where waterfowl hunting is allowed. Without the structure, the area would be much more dependent on rainfall for flooding.
The structure is on the federal refuge and is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. AGFC staff has been in communication with the managers of the structure, and the repair was placed as a top priority for the Corps.
Steve Rimer, the refuge manager at Big Lake NWR, informed AGFC officials Thursday afternoon that the structure gates were now closed and the local electric company had restored power to the area’s North Water Control Structure. That should allow the flooding that should raise water levels in state WMA hunting area at Big Lake by Saturday, opening morning.
According to AGFC biologists in Region 1, which includes Big Lake WMA, the National Wildlife Refuge is holding an above average number of ducks for this time of year. In the Big Lake WMA North Woods greentree reservoir, the mast production has been good. The gauge at Bo Dock, as of Wednesday, was reading 235.2 feet msl, meaning that area had 85 percent coverage (235.5 is the target level). The South Woods GTR as of Wednesday was reported with 95 percent water coverage.
The 60-day Arkansas waterfowl season opens statewide 30 minutes before sunrise on Saturday, Nov. 23.