I couldn’t help but gaze down the levee about 20 yards behind where Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham was announcing that Bussey Brake Reservoir had become the property of the LDWF Monday morning. I was looking at the spot where my dad and I had built an old wooden ramp about 50 years ago. We kept a 14-foot aluminum boat locked up there, along with about 40-50 other folks who did the same. We used that old boat almost every Saturday for years and years when the fish were biting. I could still see the ramp, though no one else could…
I often took my both kids fishing here as they grew up. My how time flies. But now, no matter how time goes, hundreds and hundreds of other fishermen and their families will enjoy Bussey the same way my dad and I and my family did. Monday was a happy moment.
Robert’s words once again caught my attention: “There is not a sporting magazine in America that hasn’t had an article about this lake. It was a legendary fishing hole. It can be again,” he said, the big smile on his face showing pleasure in doing this in his own backyard. Earlier, he had told me of looking at an old picture of his dad with a big string of Bussey bass. I had done the same thing. Our stories could be told thousands of times by others. An old news article states that there were 65,000 fisherman visits to Bussey in one year after opening to the public on April 30, 1960. I was there that day, along with dad. I don’t remember if I really remember that trip or not, but I do remember hearing details of the day so many times, that I think I do. You could literally catch any kind of fish anywhere in the lake for decades. It was amazing. Growing up, it was my second home.
Monday’s press conference confirmed the donation of Bussey and Wham to the state of Louisiana by International Paper. The areas, valued at over $7.8 million dollars, cover more than 8,000 acres in Morehouse and Ouachita parishes. Now, most importantly, the reservoirs will be aggressively managed and available for the public in the future.
Director of Inland Fisheries Mike Wood has big plans for Bussey. That includes draining the lake, removing all fish to ensure getting rid of a huge population of invasive carp and other trash fish, and then starting all over re-stocking bass, bream, catfish and crappie. The process will take three to five years, but the resulting fish population will self-sustain as a healthy fisheries for decades. It’s a great plan. It’ll be great to watch it unfold.
Wham Brake was also constructed in the 1950’s on IP lands though a joint effort with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The reservoir has become part of the 21,948 acre Russell-Sage Wildlife Management Area. LDWF has partnered with Ducks Unlimited to implement a management strategy including better hunter access and added acres of waterfowl habitat.
Wow. It was a good day. This wasn’t an easy thing to make happen, folks. We all owe a special thanks to Secretary Barham, Assistant LDWF Secretary Jimmy Anthony and Wood. And, of course, it wouldn’t have happened without the vision and commitment of IP’s Tommy Joseph, Lee Pittman and Terry Roberson and others to see this donation through.
One more thing, if you will. As I close, I have to tell you something else I thought about out there on the levee. Now when Mike Wood and company get through remaking the lake, my son and daughter will be able to take their kids out to the “New Bussey” and catch some nice fish. Good Lord willing, maybe I’ll be able to go with them, too. And a lot of other folks can do the same. That’s pretty cool.