Sept. 1, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
FORDYCE — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission does dozens of habitat-enhancement projects at lakes throughout the state to boost angling opportunities, but a recent project at Mike Knoedl Tri-County Lake will offer added food and habitat for ducks as well as the fish that use this 280-acre Calhoun County reservoir. Millet was broadcast by airplane over roughly 100 acres of exposed shoreline to benefit waterfowl during their 2021-22 winter migration.
The lake was lowered 4 feet in mid-July and held at that level to combat some of the nuisance aquatic vegetation growing around the fishing jetties. The lake, which was constructed in 1953 by the AGFC, has seen bank erosion fill some of the area around the jetties, which has promoted nuisance vegetation. The drawdown enables the lakebed to dry, killing the vegetation. It also dries and compacts the soil of the shallow reservoir, reducing silt load.
“When the lake was first drawn down we didn’t get a chance to seed it before the mudflats crusted over,” Jason “Buck” Jackson, Wetland Program coordinator for the AGFC, said. “The seed won’t take from aerial seeding unless the flats are still a little wet. We were able to get out there after about 3 inches of rain fell a couple of weeks ago and offered the substrate we needed to get the millet to take.”
The millet that grows from the aerial application will serve waterfowl this winter as well as fish next year. The seeds from the plants offer high-energy food for migrating ducks, geese and shorebirds, and could serve to attract a few birds for local hunters to enjoy. Once the lake’s drawdown has ended and the shoreline vegetation is flooded, the millet will decompose quickly, adding nutrients to the water for invertebrates and small fish to boost the base of the lake’s food chain.
“The effort will bring in some wading birds too, but it should offer some good duck habitat,” Jackson said. “It’s just a good way to offer some opportunity for hunters and also be able to add some much-needed food for waterfowl making their winter migration.”
Jackson said that the continued loss of valuable habitat from fewer flooded rice fields, earlier and more efficient harvests and fall tillage, the AGFC is working in any way possible to add valuable waterfowl food sources to the landscape.
Andy Yung, regional fisheries supervisor at the AGFC’s Camden office says the drawdown not only will benefit fish by recycling nutrients into the food chain, it will compact the soil to help make firm locations for fish to spawn. Additionally, the drawdown will allow pier and boathouse owners to make needed repairs or replace their permitted structures around the lake.