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Hundreds of trees found new homes in Greers Ferry Lake as fish habitat thanks to a huge cooperative effort by the AGFC and Corps of Engineers.

Hundreds of trees found new homes in Greers Ferry Lake as fish habitat thanks to a huge cooperative effort by the AGFC and Corps of Engineers.

A fleet of habitat barges and support boats led a cooperative effort between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers to place a literal “ton” of new habitat in Greers Ferry Lake earlier this month.

Five of the AGFC’s habitat barges, one habitat barge from the Corps, backhoes, skidders, excavators and support boats all converged on Choctaw Recreation Area to create and place extra-large brush piles in the west end of the lake. The brush piles were constructed of large cedars removed from the campground at Choctaw as part of a wildlife enhancement project. In all, 300 cedars were removed, bundled and placed in key points of the lake to serve as fish attractors and aquatic habitat.

“We were able to enhance 18 sites,” said Tom Bly, AGFC fisheries supervisor in Mayflower. “Six were existing fish attractors that were freshened up, but 12 were entirely new places where we sank these large piles of cedars. All were within 3 miles of Choctaw Recreation Area.”

Most brush piles were placed in 20 to 25 feet of water, where they can be the most benefit to fish and anglers on a year-round basis. While the attractors make it easier for anglers to locate fish, they’re also important additions to the lake for fish.

Invasive cedars were removed from the campgrounds at Choctaw Recreation Area in early October.

Invasive cedars were removed from the campgrounds at Choctaw Recreation Area in early October.

“Any fish that relates to natural shoreline cover can use these attractors,” Bly said. The structures will be coated with algae, which attracts small insects and minnows, which are food for larger fish. The complex cover also offers shelter from larger predators, so you will see forage fish hiding within the maze of branches. Larger predator fish, like bass, crappie and walleye will stay close by to ambush those smaller fish.”

The locations of all habitat sites were recorded with GPS units and will be available through the AGFC’s interactive map at http://gis.agfc.com/ soon.

According to Bly, the habitat enhancement was a pilot project for a new approach fisheries managers will use in enhancing the state’s waters for fish and anglers. One or two large-scale habitat projects will be selected each year, and the AGFC’s entire Fisheries Management Team will work together and work with partners to benefit the resource like never before.

“We had 25 AGFC employees and a half a dozen Corps employees working together over two days to get the job done,” Bly said. “The area had been prepped and some cedars removed two weeks prior, but nearly all the aquatic habitat work was done in two days without injury or equipment malfunction.”

Downed cedars were used to create and enhance 18 fish attractor locations within 3 miles of Choctaw Recreation area on Greers Ferry.

Downed cedars were used to create and enhance 18 fish attractor locations within 3 miles of Choctaw Recreation area on Greers Ferry.

Bly says sinking brush for habitat is a regular job for fisheries biologists, and anglers will continue seeing smaller-scale habitat projects continue throughout the state, but these large-scale, all-hands-on-deck habitat improvements should enable fisheries managers to make an even larger impact for the benefit of fish and anglers in some of Arkansas’s larger reservoirs.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with the AGFC and local anglers to place new habitat in Greers Ferry Lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with the AGFC and local anglers to place new habitat in Greers Ferry Lake.

The AGFC worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a small habitat project on Greers Ferry Lake over winter. An expansion at Eden Isle’s parking area left many large stumps and rood wads to be discarded. Instead of burning or grinding them, the Corps loaded the wads on the AGFC Habitat Barge to be placed in the lake for fish attractors and cover. The GPS coordinates to these stumps, as well as all AGFC fish attractors, are available on the AGFC Interactive Map. Click http://gis.agfc.com/ to see more.

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Lake Frierson is proving to be a destination for saugeye fishing.

Lake Frierson is proving to be a destination for saugeye fishing.

Robert Kern of Paragould caught a 6-pound, 4-ounce saugeye Oct. 12, 2003, from Lake Frierson at Lake Frierson State Park on the Greene-Craighead county line.

Usually, state records are broken by a few ounces, sometimes a pound or two for larger species. But Chris Owen of Alicia, barely in Lawrence County, tacked on 2 pounds, 7 ounces to Kern’s mark with a 9-pounder he wrestled from Frierson Jan. 30. Owen was using a Cotton Cordell crankbait. Zack Yancey, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission natural resources program technician, identified the fish as a saugeye. The weight was verified by scales at the Jonesboro Post Office. Justin Huss, superintendent at Lake Frierson State Park, assisted with photographs and application forms.

The AGFC, which owns Lake Frierson, stocks it with saugeye because history has shown the lake is too muddy to produce largemouth bass on a regular basis.

“Several years ago we found out that Oklahoma had good success with stocking saugeye into their turbid lakes so we thought to give it a try,” said Sam Henry, an AGFC fisheries biologist based in Jonesboro. “We decided to try to turn the lake into a fishery that featured saugeye as the principle predator. It seems to be working.”

A saugeye is a hybrid produced in fish hatcheries with a female walleye and a male sauger. A 9-pounder is large, although the world record, caught in Montana, stands at 15 pounds, 10 ounces.

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