By Scott Henderson
Improvements continue to be completed at Bussey Brake, a site officials hope will one day soon be a prime fishing site again. With the closure of the International Paper Company Mill in Bastrop, the lakes primary purpose to serve as an emergency water supply for the mill was no longer needed, The State of Louisiana gained control of the lake when it was donated by IP and the wheels were set in motion to rehabilitate the 2,220 acre lake into a major sport fishing site in Northeast Louisiana.
Robert Barham, former Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary, said in 2015,
“You want it fast, and I want it fast, but it is never as fast as we want it to happen,” Barham said. “We are going to refill Bussey and stock it. I am going to set everything in motion in the next 151 days [when his time in office would end] to be sure that we get there.
Barham related that the LDWF had the goal of making Bussey the best location in the country. That goal continues and according to LDWF Inland Fish Biologist Manager Ryan Daniels, work is proceeding and the long process of refilling the lake has begun.
Daniels said that in January of this year LDWF began pumping water from Bayou Bartholomew back into the lake. This after a great deal of preparatory work was completed. Recent rains have helped with the process, and Daniels said the refilling will continue as long as Bayou Bartholomew water levels are high enough to sustain the pumping.
A single pump, left from when International Paper controlled the lake, is being used to refill Bussey Brake using water from Bayou Bartholomew. — Scott Henderson
A 60 foot marked boat lane was created this summer that goes from one end of the lake to the other. Some shallow areas of the lake, especially along the east side, were dug out to make navigation easier. With the water levels down new areas for bedding and habitat have been created. Once the refilling process is complete, LDWF plans on building fishing piers and a boat dock. A wave break will also be installed to help those launching and recovering their boats from being affected by rough water.
Although plans for reopening the lake call for a probable early 2018 reopening, the process of restocking the lake has already begun. Just two weeks ago a supply of adult large mouthed bass was added to the lake. The 200 or so, five pound or larger brood stock should begin spawning soon, adding to the number, Another crop of bass will be added next year. Within the next month LDWF will add adult brim to the lake, with plans to add crappie in the spring or fall. Catfish and shad will also be added. Part of the activity completed since the lake has been drawn down was to try and eliminate “trash” fish such as carp, buffalo and gar. While some “trash” fish may be introduced from the bayou as the refilling takes place, the adult bass are expected to help control those numbers by feeding on them
While the lake remains in the refilling and restocking stage it is not an established fishery Daniels said. But in the near future, Daniels expects it to be a major sport fishing destination in northeast Louisiana.
Back in 2015 Barham said, “I’m as excited as you are about Bussey… because that is when the good times will happen with Bussey,” Barham said.
It appears it won’t be too long until the fishing is good at Bussey Brake again.