There are a half-dozen of them in Perry County — small lakes that are definitely fishable but which are virtually known outside their immediate vicinity.
Do you say you know Arkansas lakes? How about Dry Fork Lake, Cedar Creek Lake, Cove Creek Lake, Little Bear Creek Lake, Huston Creek Lake, Rock Creek Lake?
Those are the Perry County six, all watershed lakes in the Ouachita National Forest.
The fish in them are the usual four common species for Arkansas — largemouth bass, crappie, bream and catfish. Rates of fishing success vary widely, from not good to spotty to very good, depending on the angler and on the particular occasion when he or she goes after the fish.
One consistent factor with these six lakes is they are underutilized for fishing. Another consistent factor is they take some effort to reach, mainly because directional signs are absent. Some of the unpaved roads to them are rough but usually passable in two-wheel drive vehicles.
Here are six lakes a bit over an hour’s drive from Little Rock, and a recent weekday visit to some of them found no one, zero, on the lakes fishing. One pickup with two fishermen stopped for a brief chat as they were headed to an outing on Dry Fork Lake.
These are lakes built in mountain watersheds for flood control purposes and also for recreation. Many similar lakes are scattered across Arkansas, some not accessible because private land surrounds them. These lakes followed the building of the first watershed lake in the nation, and that was Lake Bennett in Faulkner County, now a part of Woolly Hollow State Park.
Their primary purpose is to slow down the detrimental effects of runoff from rains, erosion, in the hill country. The Perry County lakes are part of the Fourche LaFave River system. The lakes were built by the federal Soil Conservation Service, now the National Resources Conservation Service, and are administered by the Ouachita National Forest and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Fishing can — sometimes — be surprising good, said Jerry Anderson, who operates Andrew’s Fishing and Hunting Supply not far from Dry Creek Lake. Anderson’s business is on Arkansas Highway 314 west of Hollis in western Perry County.
"This (Dry Creek Lake) is a crappie and bream lake," Anderson said. There are some pretty good bass in it, but crappie and bream are what most people are after."
He turned on a digital camera and showed photos of a nearby octogenarian, Leonard Jones, who displayed a string of large redear bream. "Some of those redears are a pound and a quarter," Anderson said. "A lot of pound and a quarter redears come out of the lake."
At 106 acres, Dry Fork Lake is more than two and a half times the size of that first watershed impoundment, Lake Bennett. A boat ramp helps with access to the lake, but no other facilities are available. Camping is allowed. Dry Fork Lake is reached by Shepherd’s Ford Road off Highway 314 — but there is no sign.
Cedar Creek Lake, 86 acres, is new among Arkansas lakes, built in 1998. It is off Arkansas Highway 7 south of Hollis.
Cove Creek Lake, 46 acres, is also reached off Highway 7 but between Fourche Junction and Hollis. Some area anglers say it may have the best bass fishing of the six Perry County watershed lakes.
Little Bear Creek Lake, 36 acres, is also reached off Highway 7 near Hollis.
Huston Creek Lake, 32, acres, is southwest of Perryville and reached off Arkansas Highway 10.
Rock Creek Lake, 27 acres, is south of Aplin off Highway 10.
The Arkansas Health Department has issued mercury advisories for Dry Fork and Cove Creek lakes, meaning consumption of predator fish should be limited.
To find the Perry County lakes, a county map is essential, since no road signs indicate the lakes. State highway maps don’t show any of them.
Ouachita National Forest maps show the lakes, as do the "Arkansas Outdoor Atlas" and the "Arkansas Gazetteer."
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.