Unusual among Arkansas lakes in its makeup, Marion McCollum Lake Greenlee appears well on the way to recovery from major surgery a few years back.

The lake on the eastern edge of Brinkley is 300 acres inside four-sided levees. It has no feeder stream but is supplied with water from wells.

Like nearly all lakes, the years took a toll on Greenlee, which was a strong crappie, bream, bass and catfish lake in its earlier years. A major problem with Greenlee was silt. Not only did the bottom gradually grow closer to the top, the excessive silt sharply reduced spawning capabilities of the fish.

A major renovation took place a few years ago, and again good catches of those basic four species are being made.

There is a problem, though, and it’s with a newcomer type of fish.

Lee Holt, fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said, "Greenlee was stocked with Florida largemouth bass, and they are catching some good ones. But we have not documented spawning of the Florida bass."

Jeff Lovell, who operates B&J One Stop Sporting Goods in Brinkley, said, "The bass fishing is entirely catch and release. We are hearing about some 6- and 7-pound bass coming in."

That catch and release rule doesn’t please everyone, even though many dedicated bass chasers turn loose the bass they hook and land anywhere they fish. But if the fish aren’t reproducing on Greenlee, there is no alternative. A put and take bass procedure isn’t practical at all.

Those Florida bass in the lake are finding plenty to eat, Holt said. Plentiful shad and abundant green sunfish, often called ricefield slicks, give plenty of food for the largemouths.

Holt said, "Greenlee is one of the better bass lakes in our area. A lot of those Florida bass are football fish," meaning they are chunky to the point of looking like footballs.

Crappie anglers are working Greenlee and bringing in good catches, Lovell said. 

"The fishermen are using more minnows than jigs, but back and chartreuse jigs are going good right now. Other color combinations will work at different times of the year — things like red heads and white bodies or green heads with white bodies."

The unusual twist to the Greenlee crappie scene, however, is that the lake was not restocked with crappie after the renovation. At least, the Game and Fish Commission didn’t restock it. The assumption is crappie came into the lake clandestinely, the secret work of area crappie enthusiasts.

Holt said, "The crappie fishing is up and down. In 2008 and 2007, we had very good crappie fishing, then there was a die-off in 2008. It has come back some now."

Greenlee’s catfish are channel cats, and they are abundant. Anglers are able to bring in strings of 2-, 3-, 5,-pound channel cats, the only variety that is in the lake. Lovell said an assortment of baits is accounting for the catfish — most anything from live minnows and nightcrawlers to prepared bait of several varieties.

Since it was built in 1961, Lake Greenlee has produced steady bream catches. It is doing that again today, although the overabundant green sunfish are often small. Some anglers spend time fishing with poles on the banks, catching green sunfish under four inches long then using these for catfish bait.

Two fishing piers aid the bank anglers, and these are handicapped accessible.

Marion McCollum Lake Greenlee bears the name of a former Game and Fish commissioner, a Stuttgart resident who took a strong interest in the fishing of the area. The lake is on the southern edge of Greenlee Park, just off U.S. 70 east in Brinkley.

Fishing is with poles and rods only. Yo-yos and trotlines are not allowed.

 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 jhmosby@cyberback.com.