As biologists continue to investigate why most of the sport fishery is in decline at Greers Ferry, they’re also taking steps to address what they suspect is the cause.
In short, they believe, the lake has too much of a good thing --- too many bass, crappie, and walleye. And not enough forage to feed them.
Thus, fisheries managers “are going to start culturing forage (minnows, bluegill, and threadfin shad) through the Greers Ferry Lake nursery pond,” said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). “This year, they will raise bluegill and fathead minnows through the summer and release them in the fall. This will give the bluegill several opportunities to spawn prior to release.”
Next year, they will use the spawn for threadfin shad production. Additionally, AGFC will not stock predators until the forage population recovers.
“This includes black bass species, walleye, and hybrid striped bass,” AGFC said. “Once the forage base recovers, biologists will stock these species in a manner that lends itself to a more sustainable fishery that can withstand a series of low-water years.”
Low or even normal water levels for six of the past seven years might have contributed to the imbalance in the aging reservoir. “We know that, historically, low-water years results in a reduction in productivity in lakes such as Greers Ferry,” AGFC explained.
By contrast, high water “feeds” the lake through increased runoff and flooding of shoreline vegetation.
Additionally, cold weather during recent winters likely contributed to the decline of threadfin shad, the most dominant forage species in the lake. The threadfin is a subtropical and southern temperate fish, and water temperatures in the low 40s can cause significant die-offs.
“Threadfin shad may still exist in Greers Ferry,” AGFC said. “But their abundance appears to be very low.”