Appraisal And Management Recommendations Resulting From A Three-Year Comparative Fishery Study Of Lake Catherine, Lake Hamilton And Lake Ouachita, Arkansas

A pattern of high original reservoir productivity followed by gradual decline (in terms of angling success and desirable fish production) has been evidenced in a chain of lakes, of different ages, on the Ouachita River, Arkansas. Lake Catherine, formed in 1923, consists of 3,000 acres; Lake Hamilton, created in 1931, consists of 7,200 acres, and Lake Ouachita, impounded in 1953, covers 40,000 acres. A comprehensive fishery study was conducted during the summers of 1955, 1956 and 1957 to investigate and compare the fishery resources of these lakes and formulate management plans. Comparison of limnological data indicated that the physical-chemical factors of the water of the three lakes were normal and, in fact, appeared to be optimum for good fish production. Fertility, as determined by plankton collections and bottom fauna studies, was greater in Lake Catherine and Lake Hamilton than in Lakll Ouachita. Fish population sampling, with seines, nets and rotenone, revealed that the standing crop of fishes in the older lakes, measured in pounds per acre, exceeded the crop in Lake Ouachita. The ratio of gizzard shad 1 and freshwater drum to game fish was considerably higher in the older lakes. The unbalanced and denser fish populations were reflected in slow growing sport fishes of smaller average size and lower fisherman success. Management recommendations deal primarily with Lake Catherine and Lake Hamilton since fishing success remains relatively high on Lake Ouachita. Shad and drum removals, with rotenone, are proposed on Lakes Catherine and Hamilton, followed by a heavy stocking of yearling and fingerling predator game fish from the state hatcheries. It is recommended that smallmouth black bass and yellow pikeperch (walleyed pike) be stocked to supplement formerly substantial populations; also, an experimental stocking of rainbow trout be made in the headwaters of Lake Hamilton (tailwater of Blakely Mountain Dam). A maximum harvest of all fishes in all lakes, including the legalized use of gill and trammel nets for commercial fish, is encouraged. Fall and winter drawdowns are recommended to aid in maintaining balanced populations. Water levels should be held steady from May 1st to June 1st each year. Several of the management recommendations have already been carried to completion, and it is believed all will eventually be applied to these lakes, resulting in improved fishing success.

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