Oct. 21, 2020
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
HARRISBURG – The gate at the Lake Poinsett dam, situated a little less than 4 miles southeast of here, will be closed Dec. 1 by Arkansas Game and Fish personnel, allowing the lake to begin refilling with rainwater following a renovation of the fishery, lake shoreline and the water control structure, a process that shut down the lake for three years and was officially completed last week.
Brett Timmons, AGFC District Fisheries supervisor in Jonesboro, said the closing of the gate in just over a month affects property owners along the shoreline. “Anybody that has an existing fishing pier or boathouse on the lake that is in need of repairs, this period before Dec. 1 is the last hurrah to get repairs on their fishing pier and boathouses done before the lake starts filling up,” Timmons said.
As the lake refills, the AGFC will begin stocking fish. As soon as enough water is in the system, catchable-sized channel catfish will be stocked to provide an instant fishing opportunity. Next to arrive will be the prey fish: bluegill, redear, threadfin shad, golden shiners and fathead minnows.
“That’s the most important thing about rebuilding a lake, you have to have a good prey base before you start putting predators in it,” Timmons said. “We have to give the prey time to establish their population before we add predators.”
With a good stocking of prey throughout 2021, and enough time allowed for growth, predators such as largemouth bass and crappie can follow in 2022-23. But even the first stocking is reliant on how much rain Poinsett receives, he said.
Lake Poinsett, which was created in 1960 with the damming of Distress Creek, was seeing a sudden significant drop in water level four years ago due to a failure in the water control structure. The AGFC moved ahead with plans to completely renovate the lake, which was at an age when once-prominent fisheries tend to see production fall off. Now complete, the Poinsett project is AGFC’s largest lake renovation completed to date.
The AGFC completed 10,271 linear feet of shoreline repair and replaced the old water-control structure. More than 100 fish habitat sites were constructed and placed on the lake bed, and at least 100 trees were anchored, creating more areas of critical habitat and fish cover. Timmons said he hopes for more tree anchoring before the end of the year. While the lake bed was dry the past two years, vegetation sprang up, which will offer more fish cover when the lake refills and is restocked.
How quickly the lake returns to full pool will be dependent on Mother Nature. Timmons notes that the lake had 14 inches of rain during a major weather event in December 2018 that filled the lake within 10 feet of being full, but some Arkansas autumns can be drier than others.
“We’re not sure how quickly the lake will come back,” Timmons said. “There’s a rough estimate that it will take about 20 inches of rain to ultimately fill the lake. That’s looking at the number of acre-feet and how the lake has refilled with past rains.”
When refilled, Lake Poinsett will average about 10 feet deep, with its deepest spots being 35-37 feet.
Meanwhile, property owners around Lake Poinsett who want to build a new fishing pier or boathouse can run their paperwork by Timmons and the AGFC before it’s submitted for final permitting. “We have a land use policy, linked to the website (agfc.com),” he said. “They can go there, print it off, and fill out an application for a fishing pier or boathouse and call me directly and I’ll come out, check the paperwork and have it ready to submit for a permit.
“We won’t start enforcing fishing pier and boathouse permits violations until Jan. 31, 2022. But, it’s always good to get started on this earlier rather than close to the deadline.”
Fishing piers and boathouses are required to be built with specific materials, which are listed on the website application, along with the AGFC’s lake land use policy, which can be found at www.agfc.com/en/resources/regulations/land-use-policy. Timmons can be reached by telephone at 877-972-5438.