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A winning weight of 10 fish at 10 pounds would have most bass-fishing tournament directors contemplating a permanent blacklisting of the lake from their schedule.

Yet Jared Pridmore, director of the Lake Brewer Bass Club and owner of JP Custom Baits, was nothing but smiles when he saw the results of his “Tiny Fish Tournament” in April. The only sight that made him happier than the low weight was the fish-filled ice chest where participants turned in their catch instead of releasing them to the water.

Lake Brewer is the main drinking water supply for about 20,000 people in Conway County, as well as another 60,000 people in and around the city of Conway in Faulkner County. It was constructed in 1983 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Conway Corporation maintains the lake.

The 1,166-acre reservoir has proven to be a fantastic fishery, even being featured in an episode of Major League Fishing a few years ago.

“Brewer is a great lake, and, about five years ago, you needed to have at least five fish for 20 pounds to have a chance of placing in a tournament there, but it’s getting full of small fish,” Pridmore said. “Word got out that the lake was hot. Between fishing pressure and the tons of small fish, you don’t see nearly as many fish over the lake’s slot limit.”

The “slot limit” Pridmore refers to is a special regulation placed on some lakes where bass of a certain size must be released immediately back to the water to protect them from harvest. In Lake Brewer’s case, any largemouth bass between 13 and 16 inches long cannot be kept for eating or weigh-ins to be released later, but fish under 13 inches and over 16 inches can be kept.

Matt Schroeder, a fisheries biologist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mayflower office, said slot limits are intended to help produce and maintain good fish populations, but can have a negative effect if some fish aren’t harvested.

“Lakes that have good growth and produce consistently good spawns are typical candidates for slot limits,” Schroeder said. “You’re wanting to protect your best spawning year classes of fish, while allowing harvest above and below that to thin out some of the competition for food. Your most abundant year-class of fish is going to be the youngest fish, so harvesting them lets the fish in the protected slot get more food and grow to larger sizes.”

Schroeder warns that if no one is harvesting the small fish, the slot limit becomes ineffective and the lake may see slower growth from too many mouths to feed.

“You’ve essentially created a minimum length limit at that point, and lakes with good recruitment and good growth can actually see a decline in production of large fish when that happens,” Schroeder said. “We want people catching and keeping fish under the slot limit if it’s going to work.”

Pridmore and Lake Brewer Bass Club President Lynn Hensley said they want to do what they can to help the lake support larger fish.

Print Headline: Lake benefits from catch, keep

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