Dan Bennett of Pottsboro hasn’t started doing a rain dance just yet, but it’s heavy on his mind. With summer’s oppressive heat bearing down and much of the state in some stage of drought, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department district fisheries biologist and others with close ties to Bois d’Arc Lake in Fannin County are hoping for some significant moisture soon.
Bois d’Arc is Texas’ newest freshwater reservoir. It’s the first major impoundment built statewide since 19,000-acre Lake O.H. Ivie opened to the public in 1990.
The North Texas Municipal Water District broke ground on construction of the 16,650-acre water supply reservoir in May 2018. The dam began capturing inflow from Bois d’Arc Creek and other tributaries in April 2021.
As of July 26, the lake was 38.5% full with a level of 515.77 feet. The last significant rise occurred this spring, about seven feet.
“It’s still got a long way to go,” Bennett said. “We had hoped to see it closer to full by now and hopefully open up in September ahead of the early teal season, but it’s not looking like that will happen. Things have turned off dry. We need some of those big 5-, 6-inch downpours. That would start some runoff and bring it up in a hurry.”
The good news is the reservoir won’t need to fill to full capacity for the NTMWD to give recreational users the green light to launch boats from the three public ramps, according to lake operations manager Jennifer Stanley.
Stanley says a water level of 524.00 — 10 feet below full pool — is the magic number at which the boat ramps will be considered functional. At the current level, the lake will need to rise about eight more feet to get there.
However, Stanley pointed out that water level isn’t the only factor that will be considered before the lake is officially opened to the public.
“There are several other key components to it,” she said. “The lake needs to be deemed safe, meaning there can’t be a bunch of logs and other debris floating around that boaters could hit. We also need to be sure our county law enforcement and state game wardens are made ready before it goes to the NTMWD Board of Directors for final approval.”
Stanley said it is possible the lake could open sometime this autumn, but she is not hedging her bets with the ongoing drought.
“Several things have to fall into place over the next few months,” she said. “It could happen, but I’m guessing it will be sometime in 2023. We’ll just have to wait and see. There are a lot of unknowns right now.”
Ready to fish
One safe bet is anglers around the region and beyond are anxiously awaiting the opening of Texas’ newest fishing lake. Virgin fisheries have a history of producing fast action. Uneducated fish are easy to fool.
Bennett and his staff have spent the last several years grooming Bois d’Arc to be the best bass lake it can be. “We’ve done everything we possibly could to facilitate that,” he said. “We’re also expecting it to be good for crappie and channel catfish.”
TPWD worked closely with the NTMWB engineers during the pre-inundation stages to ensure clearing crews left behind as much fish habitat as possible. Bennett said the lower portion of the reservoir east of the FM897 bridge underwent major clearing, but much of the downed timber was pushed to form more than 40 massive brush piles that will be engulfed by water when the lake fills.
“The brush piles should hold a lot of fish out there on the main lake for a long time,” Bennett said. “They also piled up quite a bit of busted concrete chunks and rock.”
Bennett said GPS coordinates of all of the sweet spots will eventually be listed for public access on the TPWD website.
The lake’s upper (western) reaches looks really fishy. Fed by Bois d’Arc Creek, the 7,000-acre area was left untouched by bulldozer crews, except for the construction of a 3 1/2-mile-long boat lane about 1,000 feet wide.
Bennett described the upper end as classic northeast Texas bottomland habitat consisting of big cottonwoods, elm, cedars and a variety of oaks. He said dense timber goes on for about 3 1/2 miles once the boat lane plays out.
“Once it floods it’s going be like jungle up there,” Bennett said. “The creek itself should be about 10-15 feet deep with lots of good spawning flats on both sides.”
Bennett said native aquatic vegetation, including coontail, has already been established. Hydrilla has not found its way into the lake yet, but he suspects it will because several smaller lakes in the area have it. The biologist described the current water clarity as “stained” due to rich nutrients being displaced into the water from decomposing terrestrial vegetation flooded thus far.
“It’s going to be a really fertile lake,” he said.
A bass haven
At the heart of TPWD’s bass management plan are early stockings of nearly 100,000 pure Florida bass collected from spawns of Toyota Legacy ShareLunkers. Legacy Lunkers are female bass weighing upward of 13 pounds that are caught from Texas lakes and loaned to the state for spawning and genetics research.
In fall 2019, nearly 2,100 advanced growth (six inches or longer) ShareLunker offspring were stocked in four preexisting stock tanks that will be inundated once the lake fills. The 3- to 7-acre nursery ponds were poisoned with rotenone to kill out any existing fish before the Florida fish were stocked, along with forage species, including bluegill, threadfin shad and fathead minnows.
In 2020, TPWD added nearly 1,100 2-year-old ShareLunkers to a main lake pool near the dam. An additional 92,800 ShareLunkers from fingerling size to 16 inches were stocked in the main lake in 2021.
In December 2021, fisheries staff used rod and reels to sample growth rates of the nursery pond bass. They collected a few fish that had reached the four-pound range in just 2 1/2 years.
“That’s tremendous growth,” Bennett said. “A bass is typically about 14 inches and will weigh around two pounds at that age.”
Like fishermen, duck hunters are champing at the bit to test the water of Texas’ newest freshwater reservoir. Waterfowlers are anticipating big things from the lake’s upper reaches, which has been designated a TPWD wildlife management area.
“The duck hunters can’t wait to get out there,” said Jason Stroup, Bois d’Arc Lake permit supervisor. “We’ve been hearing from a lot of hunters that the birds have been using it like a sanctuary. It should just get better as more of that timber floods.”
We need some big rain to do it. To learn more about Bois d’Arc Lake and get future updates, check boisdarcklake.org.
Original Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/sports/other-sports/2022/07/29/bois-darc-lake-poised-to-become-one-of-texas-most-fertile-freshwater-reservoirs/