There is good fishing news out of extreme southwest Arkansas. Millwood Lake is back.
Depending on who you talk to, the lake is a phoenix, rising from the dead, or it is going through a cycle upward in the fashion of most aging lakes.
The general assessments are consistent. Millwood’s strong suit for 40-plus years has been largemouth bass fishing, and today this is going well. How well is arguable. Millwood has also been a productive catfish water, and this too is going well — so well the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is begging through raised limits for people to come get blue and channel catfish.
Crappie are good at Millwood. Bream are good at Millwood.
Completed in 1966, Millwood is east of Ashdown and west of Hope. It covers 29,200 acres and was one of the last federal lakes built in Arkansas. It differs from other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundments in that it is a relatively shallow and murky body of water, not deep and clear in the mode of Norfork, Bull Shoals, Beaver, Greers Ferry, DeGray and Ouachita.
Most of these other federal lakes in Arkansas were built for the specific purposes of power generation and flood control. Millwood’s purpose was food control. There is no power generation. Water supply is now a function of Millwood as is the case with most of those other lakes.
Fishing and other recreation are byproducts. In recent times, birding has become a strong attractant at Millwood.
And, like Bull Shoals, Ouachita, DeGray and Beaver, a state park came into being after the lake was completed.
Largemouth bass at Millwood are doing well these days according to veteran AGFC biologist Drew Wilson, who just retired. Mark Oliver, the AGFC fisheries chief, is in agreement and so is Mike Seifert, who has operated a guide service on Millwood for years.
Seifert may not agree with the biologists on the recently revised bass rules, but he has a number of "looky here" photos of large bass to make his point about the return of good bassing.
A size restriction on largemouth bass has been lifted, and the former daily limit of three has been increased to six.
What happened at Millwood in its 46 years isn’t surprising. It got older, and its fish productivity, meaning fertility, declined. Abundant timber in the water has disappeared. It is a shallow lake with a large watershed. This results in silting and diminishing the storage capacity of the lake.
Corrective measures have included drawdowns and generous stocking of young fish. To help anglers, boat lanes have been marked with telephone poles on the edges of the lanes, not in the middle.
If it’s food for the table you want, Millwood’s catfish are an answer. In addition to the statewide catfish daily limit of 10 of all species, at Millwood you can also keep 10 blue catfish and 10 channel catfish each day – potentially 30 catfish in a 24-hour period if you can catch the right kinds. Flatheads are also present in Millwood and can grow to impressive size.
Crappie are good.
"I’m catching some huge black crappie on spinner baits, (plastic) lizards and other things around the cypress trees," fishing guide Seifert said.
Bream also are thriving, according to Seifert. Good strings of bluegill and red-ear are being landed.
"The bass are having a field day with bream," he added.
Seifert said one particular strong area for bream action is above Jack’s Isle.
"You just can’t count the number of bream beds there," he said.
For the bird enthusiasts, 333 different species have been noted at Millwood, the Corps of engineers said. A group of white pelicans is making the lake its year-round home, too.
And there are alligators using the lake.
Millwood’s lower end and Millwood State Park are reached by Arkansas 32. Access to the upper end is off U.S. 71 north of Ashdown and by Arkansas 27 southwest of Nashville.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.