ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - What Valentine Lake lacks in size, it often makes up in the quality of its fishing.
Biologists with the Calcasieu Ranger District are hoping the work they’re doing at the lake in the Kisatchie National Forest west of Alexandria will make it even better.
The lake level has been drawn down several feet so biologists could work on improving the spawning climate for the fish that inhabit the lake, including bass, bream, perch, crappie and catfish.
The Town Talk reported (http://townta.lk/1aOczl2) ) the first step in the process was to expose and eliminate encroaching aquatic vegetation.
“The idea is to dry it out and freeze it,” said biologist Ted Soileau. “It’s a great year for that because we’ve had a lot of cold weather.”
The vegetation and the layer of muck it created were removed, exposing more of the native, sandy bottom that fish prefer for spawning. Gravel beds laid down over that soil are expected to create more favorable spawning conditions.
Biologists also are sinking nearly 80 Christmas trees, donated after the season, to provide an artificial habitat. The trees were placed under a fishing pier and alongside man-made ridges in shallow water.
The trees attract insects and other forms of fish food and provide a place for newly spawned fish to hide from larger, predatory fish.
“It’s just a good refuge for smaller fish to get away from larger fish,” said biologist Steve Shively.
Biologists also have placed several spawning cavities for catfish - modified plastic buckets designed to mimic logs or other hollows that catfish prefer.
“If you look around here, we don’t have the steep bluffs or trees catfish can use,” Soileau said.
Several such artificial fish habitats were installed at Valentine Lake in recent years.
The lake was once a busy recreation spot, but activity gradually moved to nearby Kincaid Lake. Valentine still draws campers, and its fishing is well regarded.
A bass caught there in 2010 just missed the state record. Caught by Regina Womack from a kayak, it weighed 15.875 pounds and measured 27 inches in length. The state record for a largemouth bass of 15.97 pounds was set in 1994.
Valentine Lake is about 13 miles west of Alexandria, off Louisiana Highway 121.