- Associated Press - Sunday, April 30, 2017

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission intends to turn back the clock 20 to 30 years with the renovation of Mercer Bayou in Miller County to improve hunting and fishing conditions.

The renovation plan was explained by Eric Brinkman, supervisor, Fisheries District 7 to about 100 people in a meeting in Fouke showing how the commission plans to turn back the clock to improve the conditions of the bayou for the wildlife, hunters and anglers.

With all the plant growth, Mercer Bayou is shrinking.

“The Southern Miller County Rural Development Authority has been jointly working with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission for the past year on getting the bayou restored back to its natural state,” said Deryl Jones, chairman and spokesman for the rural development authority.

The plans will help the Mercer Bayou survive, Jones told the Texarkana Gazette (https://bit.ly/2pEqQ61 ) reported.

“We’re pleased with the game and fish commision and their plans. It’s the first step in opening up access to fishing and hunting,” Jones said.

“By restoring the bayou to it’s natural state it improves the access to fishing and hunting,” he said.

“We’re talking to land owners at the lower end of the bayou who are willing to donate land for picnics and fishing from the banks if the game and fish approve it,” Jones said.

The bayou has entered the reservoir life cycle of “eutrophication” Brinkman said.

The definition describes it as “excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.”

The causes in the change of the bayou are created by additional sedimentation, decreased depth, increased aquatic vegetation and poor sport-fish reproduction.

The submersed aquatic vegetation inhibits boating, causes fish-kill and is expensive to treat.

The cost to treat 100 acres of the bayou would be an estimated $81,000, Brinkman said.

The total estimated cost will be $209,500. The cost includes technicians, herbicides, dredging, channel markers and hardware for catfish spawning structures, Brinkman said.

The bayou renovation will be fixed through the aerobic decomposition which occurs when the water level is lower and the natural heat with oxygen will start the decomposition.

The mechanical breakdown will come from fire and disking the decomposing plant life.

The benefits of the renovation will also include sediment compaction, vegetation control and the reduction of unwanted fish species, which includes the silver carp, spotted gar and bow-fin.

The removal of the plant growth will make it easier to remove stumps which also ease the boat lane marking.

“Turning back the clock to 20 to 30 years will provide the maximum benefit for the costs,” Brinkman said.

The time line starts with the public meetings and then starting May 1, the fishing limits will be removed, he said.

On July 1, the gates will be opened to start draining the bayou and close the lake bed to public access.

From 2018 to 2020 the project will include stumps from the main channels will be removed, the aquatic vegetation will be treated with appropriate herbicides, and when conditions permit, controlled burning in the lake bed will occur.

The next phase will be to disk the lake bed to increase aerobic decomposition of organic material and encourage soil compaction where conditions allow.

The navigation channels will be marked and catfish spawning structures will be constructed.

In January, 2021 gates will be closed.

Then in April, the lake will be stocked with bream, shad and channel catfish.

In June fingerling largemouth bass will be stocked.

In October, white crappie fingerlings will be stocked.

Finally in 2022, the lake will be opened to “catch and release fishing,” Brinkman said.

___

Information from: Texarkana Gazette, https://www.texarkanagazette.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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