Not far from Romance and just down the road from Rose Bud, you would expect good things from Lake Barnett. It delivers.
Now a quarter-century old, the long, narrow lake in White County has been comfortable in its role as a neighborhood fishery for several species — largemouth bass, bream, crappie and catfish in particular.
Lake Barnett is closest to the town of Floyd. That’s west of Searcy and northwest of Beebe. It is only 245 acres but is about three miles long. It’s a canyon lake, built on the upper end of Bayou Des Arc which flows east to join the White River.
The lake was built to control flooding on nearby farmlands and was a cooperative project of the Game and Fish Commission, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and the Bayou Des Arc Improvement District.
An area resident, Elbert Barnett, pushed hard for the building of the lake, and it was named for him by the AGFC not long after completion in 1984.
In early spring of 2010, the crappie are drawing many anglers, according to George Orvis — now there’s a fishing name — who operates a bait shop at Floyd.
Orvis said, "They’re catching some pretty good crappie when the weather settles. They’re using both minnows and jigs. White and chartreuse are good jig colors, and some people are catching them on blue and white jigs with red heads."
Most anglers find fish where there is structure, especially trees left in place when the lake was built. The lake twists and turns west to east, and on the upper or western end, timber is thick enough to require extreme caution when using a boat.
To the east and close to the dam, the trees are much fewer. The eastern end of the lake is deep, too, with spots of 80- and 90-feet depths. Near the dam where rock was quarried, the water is about 120 feet deep.
Much of the fishing is along the old creek channel. Anglers have put up flagging and metal markers to help determine the winding route of the channel.
Orvis said, "This is been a good bass lake all along. Before it was built, the creek had good bass in it. There were a lot of 6- and 7-pound bass to come out of the creek before there was a lake."
Along with the bass and the crappie, bream are numerous in Barnett with a number of bank fishermen seeking them. Catfish of two varieties are an attraction, too, Orvis said.
"The Game and Fish stocks channel catfish in here, and there are some good flathead catfish in it too. You see those in the summer. We’ll get people coming in with 20-pound, 26-pound flatheads."
Barnett has a slot limit regulation on largemouth bass. A bass measuring 13 to 16 inches long must be returned immediately to the water.
Two public access areas help anglers get on the lake. One is just off Arkansas Highway 31 on the upper end of the lake. The other, Reed Access, is reached by a county road from Floyd near the narrow middle part of the lake. There are some picnic tables in the access areas, but overnight camping is not allowed.
Although it is small, the lake has some scenic features, particularly tall bluffs. In the middle part of the lake, Red Bluff juts about 150 feet high.
Nearby is a tall "chimney" of layered rocks. Some people call it a watchtower. A number of homes have been built close to the lake in recent years. Food, fuel and supplies are available at Floyd.
Highway 31 running north and a little west from Beebe is the primary access to Lake Barnett.
(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 email@example.com.)