An Old Lake Made New Again – Bussey On The Rebound

By: Glynn Harris

            It’s been a long time ago, 26 years ago in fact, but I can still remember my first and only visit to Bussey Brake and I came way anything but impressed. I watched a pair of commercial fishermen come to the launch ramp with their boat filled with carp and buffalo. When I looked out across the lake, it certainly didn’t look like a lake I’d enjoy trying to fish for bass, crappie or bream.

            Bussey was constructed in the mid-1950s by International Paper Co. to be used as an alternate water source for the company’s paper mill. Once the mill closed, the lake was donated to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) some eight years ago. Since that time, the state agency has been at work on creating a new lake out of the original impoundment.

            First off, the lake was basically drained and the abundance of “trash” fish, such as common carp and buffalo were removed and the work to give the lake a new lease on life began.

            Mike Wood, retired fisheries biologist with the LDWF spent many hours on Bussey both professionally and as an angler who loved the lake.
            “At one time,” Wood said, “Bussey was a nationally recognized area with some great fishing and was a blessing to International Paper Co. which allowed public access to the lake.”

            As years passed, the lake started developing a serious problem; it became infested with what some call “trash” fish such as common carp and buffalo.

            “These fish became abundant so much so that the water stayed muddy and fishing in general declined. The removal of these undesirable fish was one spoke in the wheel of getting the lake back to where it originally was,” Wood said.

            One problem that has always faced anglers occurs right at the launch ramp. Steady breezes have made launching and getting a boat on a trailer a major problem.

            “The boat ramp was in dire need of protection from heavy wave action. All it took was for a storm to blow up out of the southwest that created a serious hazard to boats trying to launch or leave the lake. A beautiful wave-break levee has been constructed in front of the ramp leaving calm water for launching. In addition, there is a pretty deep hole in the lake where material was extracted to build the levee. This deep area should be a fine crappie fishing spot especially during winter time,” Wood said.

            Although there are still some “rough” fish in the lake, their numbers have been reduced to the point that game fish that were released and are growing in the lake should have a good chance to create healthy populations of fish. The lake has been restocked with largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie and channel catfish.

            Since Bussey is actually a wildlife management area, certain requirements must be met for anglers to enjoy fishing the lake. A self-clearing permit will be used and wildlife enforcement agents will be on the lake to insure that proper regulations are in order. For example, the lake will have certain limits and length regulations in effect. For bass, there is a five fish limit with a 16 inch maximum length with one fish over 16 inches allowed in the creel. Crappie limit is 25 with a 10 inch maximum length while the bream limit is 50 with no maximum.

            There are now clearly marked boat lanes that will keep boaters from slamming lower units into stumps. These lanes are of particular importance because the lake still lacks some two feet reaching pool stage.

            Oh, there is one more problem. There are no rest room facilities around the lake. A word to the wise might be to GO before you GO.

Commercial fisherman, the late Paul Turner, is shown with his catch of buffalo and carp from Bussey Brake years ago

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