The much anticipated opening date of the Bussey Brake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Morehouse Parish has been determined. The newly renovated WMA will become available to the public on July 15 when the gates open at 6 a.m.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Inland Fisheries staff from Monroe have been working diligently on final preparations to re-open this unique area to the recreational users of Louisiana.
Following a lengthy renovation project, Bussey Brake will once again be available for fishing and other recreational activities. The 2,200-acre reservoir is the focal point of the WMA, which will be primarily managed for quality fishing.
Renovations included restocking important game fish species, the addition of boat lanes, and upgrades to the property. The public will also be able to utilize eight miles of levee surrounding the reservoir for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The WMA features three fishing piers (including a new, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible fishing pier), a wave break for those without boats to fish from, as well as a three-lane concrete ramp for launching boats. There will also be a site at the south entrance to drag kayaks or small boats over the levee.
Though the reservoir is not yet at full volume, LDWF officials have determined it can be safely utilized at the current water level. It may not reach pool stage (100 feet above mean sea level) until sometime next year. The boat launch will be open, and boaters will be able to safely navigate around the lake utilizing the marked boat lanes and the canals that were dug out to form the levee. Due to the lower water levels, the new boat mooring dock will not be available for use yet; instead, boats can be docked on the shoreline adjacent to the launch.
The fish population, though not fully mature, is able to sustain fishing at this time. Special fishing regulations have been put in place on Bussey Brake to protect the young and expanding fishery, and to hopefully ensure a quality fishing experience for all anglers. These regulations are as follows: Black Bass: 5 daily with a 16-inch maximum length limit with the exception that one bass over 16 inches may be kept; Crappie: 25 daily with a 10- inch minimum length limit; Bream: 50 daily with no size restrictions; state regulations are in effect for all other species. All fishing gears other than rod-n-reel or cane pole are prohibited. A valid state hunting/fishing license or Wild Louisiana Stamp is required to use WMAs. Anyone younger than 16 or older than 60 is exempt from this requirement.
There will be two parking areas on the WMA, both off of LA Hwy. 593 just northwest of Bastrop. The self-clearing permit station will be located at the north entrance, where the boat launch and fishing piers are located. The public will also be able to access Bayou Bartholomew, which forms the eastern boundary of the WMA.
LWDF reminds the public to help keep our WMAs clean, and please take all trash with you when leaving.
To view a recent article in the Louisiana Conservationist magazine about the Bussey Brake renovations, visit: http://laconservationist.wlf.la.gov/catching-a-brake.
Since 2012, Bassmaster Magazine has released annual rankings of the country’s best bass fisheries. While tournament data could not be gathered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, crunching numbers gathered over the past eight years revealed a surprising Best Bass Lake of the Decade. It is California’s Clear Lake.
“Typically, creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor-in-Chief James Hall. “Instead, we used all of this research and rankings from the past eight years to create an incredible — and somewhat surprising — ranking of bucket-list destinations for anglers.”
While long-considered a West Coast powerhouse, Clear Lake has never topped the Best Bass Lakes list until this year. However, in the past decade, California’s largest natural lake has also never ranked below 10th in the country and has been the top-ranked Western fishery for the past three years. Anglers can expect to consistently catch big bass in a fishery where an average bass weighs in at over 5 pounds. In fact, a bass over 16 pounds was landed at Clear Lake last year. Combine that production with a pristine setting in California’s wine country, and you have the definition of a bucket-list fishing destination.
Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, home of the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, took the No. 2 spot, matching its 2019 rank. Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention. Guntersville is known for its breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion.
Louisiana’s lone entry was Toledo Bend, which is shared with Texas. Toledo Bend came in sixth. As for bragging rights on which state has the most fisheries in the all-decade rankings, that title goes to Michigan with seven lakes. Right behind the “Great Lake State” there is a three-way tie with California, Florida and Texas each placing six lakes on the list.
Bassmaster Magazine’s Best Bass Lakes of the Decade
1 Clear Lake, California
2 Lake Guntersville, Alabama
3 Lake Erie, New York/Ohio/Pennsylvania/
4 Lake St. Clair, Michigan
5 Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, California
6 Toledo Bend, Louisiana/Texas
7 Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
8 Falcon Lake, Texas
9 Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
10 Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Law Enforcement Division (LDWF/LED) agents will take part in Operation Dry Water from July 3 to July 5. During the Operation Dry Water weekend, LDWF agents will be on patrol with heightened awareness for impaired boat operators on the state’s waterways.
“We are always on the lookout for impaired boat operators, but this weekend it will be more of a focused effort,” said Major Rachel Zechenelly, the state’s boating law administrator. “We know this will be a busy weekend and we want people to have fun on the waterways. However, we please ask everybody on the water to wear a personal flotation device and have a sober operator.”
Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications. Nationwide, alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating incidents with alcohol playing a role in 23 percent of all deaths on the water. Louisiana had 20 boating fatalities in 2019, with alcohol playing a role in three fatalities or 15 percent. Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties and fines as on the road and includes jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.
Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver’s license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road. In Louisiana, a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle while impaired. First offense DWI carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
A lot of anglers swear by big baits, especially this time of year. Big bass get a bit lethargic and would rather swim a couple of feet for a BIG GULP than swim around for an hour getting little bits and morsels here and there.
Go big or go home? Well, it may not be that serious, but big baits will catch fish. The easiest ones to fish slow this time of year are big plastic baits, like the ones shown here. Give them a try sometime. Big bass do bite in hot weather. You just have to be in the right place at the right time and have the right bait!
When the Ouachita River is right, it’s hard to beat. Bream, crappie and bass fishing is getting hot on the Ouachita River right now. There are dozens of backwater lakes, runouts and sloughs that hold fish.
A great place to fish is also in the bends of the river. Crappie love the treetops, as long as there isn’t too much current. And bass like the runouts and often stack up right off the bank in tops and stump rows. There are a lot more glamorous places to fish, but none much more productive than the river this time of year. Give it a try.
One tip — if you are fishing on the weekends, go early or late. There is a lot of recreational boat traffic out there and folks just having a good time. Be courteous. And be safe!
And don’t forget to come by and check out the fishing department at Simmon’s Sporting Goods. We’ve got a great selection of tackle and baits that will help you put some fish in the cooler for supper!
Bussey Brake should open to the public in July sometime. When the lake first opened, fishing was crazy good because it was brand new and had been sitting full of fish for a while. The “new” Bussey has fish in it, but it’s also the middle of summer and because of all the aquatic vegetation and thick brush growth, fishing will be a bit tough especially for less experienced anglers.
But it will still be a big deal! And in the future, it’ll just get bigger and bigger.
Some of the stories of the early days of Bussey are pretty cool. Below is one report from Bussey’s early days in the 60’s from the old Louisiana Conservationist magazine. Check it out:
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reminds anglers that you can now purchase your new fishing license and it will be good until June 30, 2021. While current licenses will not expire until June 30, LDWF reminds anglers that they can purchase and renew today. It’s always good to start early because a lot of folks get out on the Fourth of July holiday and then realize their old licenses has expired.
Purchasing and renewing your license can be done quickly online by visiting https://la-web.
Licenses can be purchased at designated local vendors or at the LDWF office in Baton Rouge. Acceptable methods of payment for purchases made online are Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.
If you need assistance with your online purchase, please contact the 24-hour help desk at 888-362-LDWF (5393). If you have other licensing questions, call the license office at 225-765-2887 or 225-765-2898 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Most hunters and fishermen prize their time outdoors, but also the bounty from their outdoor trip. Cooking fish, ducks, venison, etc. is a great way to take advantage of our bountiful outdoors resources. But sometimes, you gotta eat beef.
If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you’ve been shocked by the prices. There is a solution. Check out buying a half or whole beef. Here’s a good place to start: