Driving a boat on Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir can be a bit difficult due to the thousands of stumps sitting just below the surface of the water, but thanks to some advances in technology, “Old Stumpy” will soon see a shave. The Arkansas Game and Fish is contracting Stump Busters underwater stump removal service to clear and renovate the boat lanes throughout the lake.
Lake Conway currently has 23 miles of marked boat lanes which are relatively clear of stumps. However, people idling in the lanes still will feel the bump of a random stickup or two that was missed when the most recent lanes were developed in 2006 on this 6,700-acre fishery. With modern sonar systems and an innovative underwater saw, most of these “outlaw” stumps can be removed and the lanes can be modified to be more angler-friendly.
Matt Horton, Habitat Biologist at the AGFC’s Mayflower office, says the project likely will renovate 10 to 12 miles of the current boat lanes. The remaining boat lanes will be renovated in sections as funding becomes available each year.
The project is scheduled to start in March, but depends on the weather. The lanes will be cleared and marked, and the old boat lane markers will be removed before the end of May.
“We don’t have enough funds budgeted to complete all of the lanes, but we are prioritizing the lanes that see the most use and trying to stretch our dollars as much as possible to benefit anglers,” Horton said. “The cost of the removal is based on the actual number of stumps needing to be cut, and trying to cut new lanes during this project would eat up our allotted budget very quickly in a lake like Conway.”
Horton says the lanes will be widened to 30 feet, and areas where current lanes veer closely to the shore will be pulled toward the lake to reduce boat wakes causing issues with boathouses and erosion.
“We also will try to straighten a few of the lanes that went around some known stump fields but caused some confusion with boaters looking for the next boat lane marker,” Horton said. “Most of the existing boat lanes on the west side of the lake will be renovated during this project. We will use as much of the old boat lane system as possible to maximize our investment.”
The boat lane markers also will see a renovation during the project. Instead of steel posts holding a small reflective red or green placard, the refurbished boat lanes will be marked with bright green and red PVC posts.
“The posts are made from a special grade of PVC that resists deterioration from exposure to sunlight and the elements,” Horton said. “The entire post is colored as well, so it should stand out much better than the steel posts.”
Horton says each post also will be outfitted with reflective tape to stand out at night when boaters may wish to navigate using spotlights.
“The old markers are extremely heavy and troublesome to install, and they occasionally get knocked into the boat lane, creating a boating hazard,” Horton said. “These PVC markers won’t damage a boat’s propeller or hull like the steel posts do.”
During the project, there may be times when old and new boat lane markers exist on the same trail. Anglers should be mindful of the project and take their time when navigating through the renovated trails. The old metal boat lane markers will be removed as quickly as possible.
Even after the project is complete, Horton warns that no boat lane is 100 percent clear and that boaters should still exercise caution when fishing Conway, which was essentially a flooded forest when it was created in 1948.
“Even if every stump is cleared, you still may have fallen trees or logs that can float into the lane,” Horton said. “Take your time and be careful, and you can enjoy this incredible fishing lake. It’s one of the best crappie locations in the state and holds plenty of bream, trophy flathead catfish, and some great largemouth bass.”