About once every five years, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts a drawdown of Lake Chicot.
Many people assume the drawdowns are mainly for repair or building of new docks. While this is important for some residents, Kris Nault, AGFC’s District 5 Fisheries supervisor, says it is secondary to the other reasons for the drawdown.
Lake Chicot will be drawn down six feet and this will expose 900 acres of lake bottom, according to Nault, who added that the part of the lake that is exposed will begin to dry and crack. The cracking will allow nutrients to be released into the lake when it is refilled.
Those nutrients will increase the lake’s productivity and can increase the growth and abundance of fish. The drawdown is intended to concentrate predator and prey fish, which will increase the growth and condition of predators because their prey will be more readily available, Nault said.
The prey species growth rates can also improve as a result of there being less competition for food among the prey that survives predation.
Vegetation will also grow on the exposed lake bottom, which, once it gets flooded, will provide a refuge for the younger fish increasing their survival. The increased survival of young fish results in large year classes of game fish like bass and crappie, Nault said; it will improve the fishing for those species for several years.
The lake will be refilled starting Jan. 1, 2020. It should be back to its regular level by the time spawning season starts.
The daily creel limits for sportfish will be half of the regular limits for Lake Chicot during the drawdown.