Beaver Lake, the close at hand and diverse water attraction for a half-million Arkansans, has a new feature.
After 10 years of stocking baby walleye by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in the 31,700-acre lake and after careful monitoring of these fish, the conclusion is that walleye are doing well in Beaver and apparently are there for the long run.
"We are seeing good evidence of reproduction in the lake, and this is in addition to the ones we are stocking," said Ron Moore, district fisheries supervisor for the Game and Fish Commission.
Beaver Lake is one of five major impoundments in the White River system. It is the farthest upstream. The other White River system lakes are Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Greers Ferry. Until recently, Beaver was the only one of the five White River lakes that didn’t have fishable populations of walleye.
Greers Ferry especially but also Bull shoals, Norfolk and Table Rock have reputations for producing large walleye. Beaver is joining them.
"A fellow called me not long ago and asked what the (Beaver) lake record was for walleye," Moore said. "We don’t keep lake records. He said he had caught a 13 1/2-pound walleye."
Moore said he and his staff have brought up several walleye weighing 10 pounds or a little more in their sampling work.
The Arkansas record for walleye is 22 pounds, 11 ounces, and it came from Greers Ferry in 1982, caught by Al Nelson of Quitman.
Like the other white River lakes, Beaver is deep with mostly clear water and many pockets, fingers, tributaries and forks. There could be a difference with the use of various areas on Beaver in comparison with the other lakes. Moore said Beaver’s walleye are being found in the middle and lower sections of the lake, and there is evidence some spawning is taking place in the rock riprap areas close to the dam.
Walleye on Greers Ferry and the other lakes are known for making spawning runs up the gravel-bottom feeder streams.
Anglers on Beaver are catching walleye with a variety of lures and baits.
Minnow-type lures, jigs, crank baits and spoons are all being used. So are live minnows and nightcrawlers. Some experienced walleye fishermen like to use nightcrawler harness rigs, which combine the live worms with accessories like spinner blades.
One reason for walleye popularity in Beaver and other waters is the superb quality of their meat on the table. White, firm and "sweet," walleye meat is usually a favorite for any Arkansas who has dined on it.
Beaver Lake was completed in 1965 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the purposes of flood control and electricity generation.
Early in its life it became a home for striped bass, stocked to make use of the deep, clear waters that were not conducive to native fish like black bass, crappie, catfish and bream. A major striped bass fishery developed on Beaver Lake with a number of marinas and professional guides specializing in stripers.
The downside to stripers is that they do not reproduce in the Arkansas waters except in the Arkansas River system. Striped bass are on a put-and-take basis. Young fish are stocked into the lakes where they grow to catchable sizes.
But walleye reproduce on their own, although supplementary stocking of baby fish is done to help the numbers increase.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.