Lake Ouachita Fisheries Management Plan - First Draft.

  

LAKE OUACHITA FISHERIES MANAGEMENT PLAN
 Prepared by Fisheries Division
 Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
In Consultation with Lake Ouachita Citizen Advisory Group
 OCTOBER 17, 2006

Lake Ouachita Fisheries Management Plan Up Date Meeting June 2016

Based on Public Input from Facilitated Workshops, The AGFC Website, Mail-In Questionnaires, and Fisheries Science. 

Mission Statement:

Provide quality fishing opportunities for all sport fish species in Lake Ouachita through habitat improvement, fishery enhancement, and increased angler involvement and communication.
Conduct fishery management through an open public process that adapts to changing conditions
and seizes new opportunities as they occur.

Introduction

Lake Ouachita is a 40,000-acre Corps of Engineers (COE), hydropower, flood control reservoir located near Hot Springs in western Arkansas. The reservoir has sport fisheries (black bass, crappie, striped bass, walleye, catfish, and bream) are managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) under the authority of Amendment 35 to the Arkansas Constitution.
The AGFC desired to better understand and address the overall desires of the Lake Ouachita's fishing public.

The AGFC contracted an independent facilitator to assist with developing an all-inclusive fisheries management plan for Lake Ouachita.
Dynamic Solutions Group (DSG), an independent consulting firm, was retained to facilitate the process.
Their agent, Mr. Spencer Amend, was the primary facilitator for the plan development.

Purpose of the Plan

The plan was developed to address, as extensively as possible, the desires and expectations of the fishing public of Lake Ouachita as regards the overall management of the lake's sport fisheries.
The deliverable elements of the plan are based on scientific fisheries management principles and are intended to maintain and enhance the wide variety of fishing options available on Lake Ouachita.

Development of the Plan

Fisheries Division AGFC identified a group of Lake Ouachita “stakeholders" in regards to their interest and availability to serve on an oversight committee.
A Lake Ouachita Citizens Advisory Group (LOCAG) was formed during July 2006 to help the Commission with formulation of the management plan.

A charter (see LOCAG Charter in appendix) was proposed by DSG and adopted by the LOCAG to direct their work. Guiding principles in the Charter for LOCAG members were:

  • Represent and provide perspectives of all anglers who fish Lake Ouachita and others who have an interest in Lake Ouachita fisheries resources.
     Assist in the completion of the Lake Ouachita Fisheries Management Plan.

  • Advise and assist with the implementation of the Lake Ouachita Fisheries Management Plan. 

  • Help evaluate the success of the Lake Ouachita Fisheries Management Plan. 

  • Provide information and perspectives to help with needed modifications to the Lake Ouachita Fisheries Management Plan.

The LOCAG is expected to serve as an ongoing oversight committee for several years. Periodic review of the plan following initial formulation and implementation will be needed. Membership may change over time.

Initially, the LOCAG consisted of about 35 members. (See dated list of LOCAG members in appendix). This document establishes management goals and objectives for Lake Ouachita with consideration of public input.
Public comments were collected during two August 2006 facilitated public workshops held in Mount Ida and Fountain Lake.

These meetings were advertised to the public and their participation was encouraged.
The Commission updated its website to include information regarding the LOCAG meeting in August as well as reports detailing the input from both public meetings.
Additionally, the public had a website link to submit their advice and comments.
Preliminary outlines of management plan strategies were circulated among the LOCAG for advice.

Fisheries management personnel then incorporated that advice
into this draft management plan document.

For organizational purposes, the plan is divided into the three (3)
major categories that relate to the major components of any fishery:

  • People
  • Fish,
  • Habitat

People Goals, Objectives, and Strategies

 I.
Achieve Lake Ouachita fisheries management goals and objectives in an open and transparent process involving all anglers, the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Entergy, and fishing related businesses.

Objectives

A. Interact annually or more often as needed with the Lake Ouachita CAG
B. Maintain an interactive informational website
C. Determine angler satisfaction and preferences through an angler creel survey
D. Maintain open lines of communication/cooperation between other state and federal agencies
E. Encourage anglers to participate in fish management activities such a fish stockings, habitat improvement projects, and fish sampling.
F. Facilitate and assist with competitive fishing events.
  • Provide a live-release barge available on a first come- first served basis.
  • Encourage and educate anglers on best weigh-in practices to reduce mortality associated with bass tournaments.
  • Work with Corps of Engineers to establish tournament permitting and reporting program.
  • Encourage participation in Arkansas Tournament Information Program (ATIP).
  • Provide technical assistance to major tournament events as time and manpower allow.

 II.
Seek open communication, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation between varied angling groups.

Strategies

 A. Host an annual CAG meeting to review Lake Ouachita Management Plan implementation and listen to angler perspectives and views.

 B. Post Annual Lake Ouachita Fish Population Sampling Report on AGFC website.

 C. Post Arkansas Tournament Information Program for Lake Ouachita on AGFC website.

 D. Post District 8 and Black Bass Program newsletters on AGFC website.

 E. Maintain postal mailing list for those without internet access.

 F. Provide presentations to sport fishing groups and civic organizations on the fishery management of Lake Ouachita.

 G. Work with AGFC Communications Division to develop informational outreach on
Striped Bass, Black Bass, Best Fish Handling Practices, Aquatic Vegetation Control, and other topics of interest to improve angler understanding of the ecological and social parameters effecting Lake Ouachita fisheries.

 H. Actively solicit feedback from the public on the condition of the fishery.

 III.
Increase and focus Enforcement efforts to reduce the impact of fishing violations on the sportfish in Lake Ouachita.

 Objectives:

 A. Focus Enforcement effort during critical periods.

  • Devote the equivalent of one Wildlife Officer during period of highest fishing activity (March 15 thru May 15) to Lake Ouachita only.
  • Spend a collective 40 hours per week during this time period that a Wildlife Officer is on the water or at the ramps or marinas making angler contacts.
  • Visit fish cleaning stations at Crystal Springs, Tompkins Bend, Brady Mountain, etc., regularly.
  • Increase fishing license checks.
  • Increase checks for compliance with length limits.
  • Increase checks for compliance with possession limits.

 C. Maintain or increase Enforcement emphasis on fishing in Lake Ouachita during the rest of the year.

 Fish Goals, Objectives, and Strategies

 Achieve a balanced, quality, diverse sport fishery using science-based fisheries management principles.

 I. Largemouth bass fishery goal:

 Achieve a quality largemouth bass fishery attractive to anglers.
 Management will seek to balancing high bass density with rapid growth rates commensurate with forage and habitat conditions.

 Objectives:

 A. Increase the average-size and growth rate of native (Northern) largemouth bass. Specific metrics to achieve:

  • Achieve a relative stock density to 30%.

  • Achieve a proportional stock density to 60%.

  • Achieve a growth rate of 16 inches at Age 4+.

 Strategies

1. Maintain current 13-inch minimum length limit.

2. Maintain current 6 bass per day creel limit.

3. Discourage bass tournaments that utilize a weigh-in when water temperature exceeds 85°F.

4. Increase enforcement presence for compliance.

5. Evaluate achievement through annual electrofishing and cove-rotenone sampling.

6. Evaluate achievement through the Arkansas Tournament Information Program.

7. Evaluate achievement through dialogue and discussions with anglers.

B. Improve the catch success of largemouth bass anglers.

 Specific metrics:

 1. Achieve 0.2 bass/hour catch-rate for largemouth bass over 13-inches.

 2. Achieve a catch-rate of 600 hrs per largemouth bass over 5 lbs. (measured by ATIP, the hours required to catch a largemouth bass over 5 7 lbs. is 669)

 3. Evaluate through a 3-year creel survey.

 4. Achieve average weight of 1.85 lbs. per largemouth bass caught in tournaments (ATIP target).

C. Maintain adequate recruitment rates of young largemouth bass to sustain a viable, quality bass fishery.

 Strategies:

1. Stock largemouth bass through the Lake Ouachita nursery pond as part of the three year rotation. Culture method will be at the discretion of District Fisheries Biologist:

 (1) Hatchery system will provide northern largemouth fingerlings (40,000) in late May or early June. Fingerlings will be raised to average of 5 to 6-inch fish before summer release. Or (2) natural broodstock will be secured either through electrofishing or tournament weigh-ins and stocked directly into nursery pond. Wild spawning can be expected to produce an estimated 250,000 fingerlings (1- to 2-inches in size).

2. Stock additional largemouth bass fingerlings when cove rotenone results indicate lower than average spawn success (50% of historic average).

3. Work with the USCOE to maintain stable water level during spring spawning season.

4. Determine relationship between spawning success and the density of Age 1 largemouth bass the following spring.

5. Determine the efficacy of stocking largemouth bass to supplement natural reproduction.

 D. Determine the suitability and efficacy of using Florida-strain largemouth bass in Lake Ouachita to improve bass growth performance and the catch rate of bass over 5 lbs by anglers.

1. Introduce Florida largemouth bass (FLMB) into the 937-acre Crystal Springs arm of the lake. Stock at target rate of 100 fingerlings per acre (93,700 minimum). This rate will result in stocking approximately 750,000 FLMB fingerlings over eight years.

2. Determine the comparative growth difference between largemouth bass within the Crystal Springs arm with known native strain largemouth bass from other areas of Lake Ouachita.

3. Determine the rate of Florida allele introgression into the native genome component of the Crystal Springs arm of Lake Ouachita.

 II. Spotted bass fishery goal:

 Achieve an abundant spotted bass fishery commensurate with the lake’s habitat conditions.

1. Protect with 13-inch minimum length limit effective January 1, 2007 III. Smallmouth bass fishery goal: Establish a self-sustaining population of a strain of smallmouth bass designed to produce a trophy fishery.

 Strategies

1. Stock 100,000 fingerling smallmouth bass annually until 2010 in designated stocking zone between Blakely Dam and Point #1.

2. Maintain catch and release regulation for smallmouth bass.

3. Evaluate through electrofishing, cove-rotenone, and creel census.

 IV.
 Striped bass fishery goal:

 Achieve a viable and balanced striped bass fishery. Management will seek robust growth rates focused on providing large fish of a density attractive to anglers.

 Specific metrics:

 1. Achieve growth-rate of 26 inches by Age 4.

 2. Achieve Relative Weight Index, Wr (a fish condition factor) of 95%.

 3. Maintain angler catch-rate of .03 fish/hour and average size of 10.5 lb. as determined by angler creel survey.

 Strategies

 1. Stock striped bass as follows:

  • Stock annually at 3 to 4 fingerlings per acre (120,000 – 160,000) when Wr is at 95% plus length-at-age achieves minimum of 24 inches at Age 4.
     

  • Stock at 2 per acre (80,000 fish) when length at Age 4 is below 24 inches and Wr is between 92% and 95%.
     

  • If Wr drops below 92%, stocking rate will be 1 fingerling per acre until Wr improves.
     

  • Following rare striped bass production failure resulting in no striped bass being stocked, the stocking rate will be 5 fingerlings per acre (200,000) in the next year.
     

  • In the event of a severe winterkill of threadfin shad, striped bass stocking rates will be reduced to 1 per acre (40,000) until the threadfin shad population recovers.
     

  • Establish daily limit of 4 striped bass for Lake Ouachita.
     

  • Determine mortality rates of stocked striped bass fingerlings to Age 3 to help estimate populations.
     

  • Implement an angler diary program with striped bass guides to collect fishery information.
     

  • Evaluate population through annual gill netting surveys during spring striped bass spawning projects. AGFC gillnet collection will target catch per net night of 2.75 fish minimum.
     

  • Evaluate success and harvest rates through a creel survey.
     

 V.
 Crappie fishery goal:

Support an abundant number of crappies available for angler harvest. Management will treat both species as one stock.

 Strategies: 

1. Explore feasibility of a 9-inch minimum length limit for crappie.

2. Stocking via nursery pond crop rotation. Stock 15 broodstock per acre or 300 adults for pond spawning.
3. Evaluate through spring electrofishing, cove-rotenone samples, and creel census.

 VI.
 Walleye fishery goal:

Provide a viable walleye population available for angler harvest.

 Strategies

1. Stock via nursery pond crop rotation. Stock fry into pond and raise to fingerling size before release. Estimated release at 150,000 to 300,000 fingerlings.

2. Surplus hatchery production will be stocked as fingerlings in years when walleye are not in nursery pond.

3. Evaluate through cove-rotenone samples, and creel census.

VII.
Catfish fishery goal:

Provide a viable catfish population available for angler harvest.

Strategies

1. Annually stock 20,000 catchable-size (12 to 14 inches) channel catfish from Jim Collins Net Pen Facility on Lake Ouachita.

2. Annually stock 60,000 yearling (8-inch) channel catfish from hatchery system.

3. Stock 5,000 yearling-size blue catfish in 2008.

VIII.
Forage fish goals:

Maintain self-supporting population of threadfin shad.

Strategies

1. Supplementally stock threadfin shad when a significant winterkill of that 11 species is detected.

 2. Stock threadfin shad when cove rotenone poundage estimate is less than 50% of historical standing crop average (about 8 pounds per acre).

3. Maintain the current mix of forage species (including sunfishes, minnows, gizzard shad, etc.). No new forage species introductions.

4. Evaluate through annual cove-rotenone samples.

5. Explore the efficacy of using hydro-acoustics to improve threadfin shad population assessments.

IX
Habitat Goals

 Objectives, and Strategies

 Achieve the types, quality and quantity of aquatic habitat in Lake Ouachita that will support a healthy, balanced and robust sport fishery.

 Objectives

 I. Manage current mix of submerged aquatic vegetation to achieve no less than 15%, and no more than 20%, of the lake's surface area.

 Strategies

 A. Reduce the proportion of Hydrilla sp. and Eurasian water-milfoil in favor of more desirable native species.

 B. Stock 10,000 yearling grass carp into targeted areas in cooperation with the COE in 2007. Future grass carp stockings will be based on Hydrilla sp. coverage with cover data provided by COE C. Endorse COE use of approved aquatic herbicides in selected areas such as swim beaches, boat launches, and marinas.

D. Endorse COE insect bio-control programs.

E. Support COE native plant restoration projects.

  • II
     Increase the abundance of woody structure in Lake Ouachita.

    • Strategies

       A. Utilize AGFC habitat barge for placement of woody cover, particularly in the western portions where aquatic vegetation is limited, beginning in Fall of 2008, according to COE guidelines.

      B. Participate in COE tree hinging program.

      C. Develop a woody structure habitat enhancement plan by Spring, 2008.

Fertili

 

 

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