April 6, 2022
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
HARRISBURG – Lake Poinsett was officially rededicated Tuesday with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff and local officials on hand at Lake Poinsett State Park to celebrate the completion of the lake’s $3.5 million renovation.
The project marks the largest AGFC lake renovation to date. Most of the physical work on Lake Poinsett was finished in December 2020, but the lake is rainfall dependent for refilling. Lake Poinsett’s level as of Monday, April 4, was at 302.6 feet msl, just 2.5 feet below full pool, and is now accessible for boat launching, according to Brett Timmons, the AGFC’s district fisheries supervisor based in Jonesboro. Paddlers have been able to use the lake with kayaks and canoes for several months.
Catfish, redear and bluegill have been stocked in the lake in the past year, along with forage (threadfin shad, golden shiners and fathead minnows) for the stockings of largemouth bass and crappie later this year. As part of Tuesday’s commemoration at the dam access, instead of having a ribbon cutting, another stocking of 2,100 yearling channel catfish were added to the lake.
“We’re stocking largemouth bass as soon as they are available (from a state hatchery) this spring,” Timmons said.
AGFC Chief of Staff Chris Racey, AGFC’s Fisheries Chief Ben Batten and Commissioners Stan Jones and Anne Marie Doramus attended the dedication to proclaim the lake is officially reopened for fishing.
Lake Poinsett’s regulations currently call for half the normal state daily harvest on catfish and full harvest on bream. All other sportfish will be catch-and-release until further notice, Timmons said. Crappie will not be stocked until the fall. “That’s the normal regime for restocking a renovated lake,” Timmons said.
AGFC’s William H. Donham Hatchery in Corning provided the catfish, along with threadfin shad, golden shiners and bluegill in 2021. The Joe Hogan Hatchery in Lonoke stocked Poinsett with bluegill, redear, catfish and fathead minnows, Timmons added, while estimating that over 750,000 fish have been stocked so far.
Lake Poinsett was constructed in 1961 within Lake Poinsett State Park, which is operated by Arkansas State Parks. The AGFC manages the fishery. A failure of the water control system, damage to the dam and problems with shoreline erosion led to the renovation of the 430-acre lake starting in the summer 2017.
Timmons said the AGFC spent about $1.3 million on repairing the water control structure, $2.1 million to fix 10,271 linear feet of the shoreline and $200,000 on new fish habitat. Volunteer groups helped the AGFC staff place newly constructed habitats around the lake, which will help boost the fishery. Trees were cut and anchored for more habitat sites, and vegetation sprung up while much of the lakebed was dry; this will afford more fish cover.
The 174 new habitat sites are available on the AGFC interactive map for anglers to find. Included in the new habitat structures are what Timmons calls “spider buckets” created from donated materials such as cement blocks and PVC pipe and placed around a pier to help promote fishing. Five new bank fishing areas also are available and accessible by county roads running alongside the lake.
The AGFC’s Batten, noting the importance of the lake to the region and to the residents who live around it, said, “We appreciate the patience of the public. The lake is now better than we found it. The fishing is good now, but it will be even better in two or three years.”