Like many area residents, Mike Wood remembers what Bussey Brake was like in its prime.
“I fished there as a kid with my father,” Wood said. “I have great memories and know a lot of people who remember the old days of Bussey.”
Through his position as director of inland fisheries with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Wood has a unique opportunity to help restore the 2,614-acre impoundment to its former glory.
Earlier this month, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission officially created the Bussey Brake Wildlife Management Area, consummating a donation made to the department in 2011 by International Paper, which operated the lake since its creation in the mid 1950s.
The Inland Fisheries Division of the LDWF, which is overseeing the project, began a drawdown of the lake this summer. Wood said seasonal rainfall that has added water to the lake was anticipated.
“We know there’s going to be more rainfall this winter and into the spring,” Wood said. “It will probably be sometime this summer before it’s dry enough for us to go in and evaluate exactly what it is we’re going to do. We have a general idea, but want to wait until the last bit of water is out before we finalize our plans.”
Primary plans for the WMA are, Wood said, to create clearly marked boat lanes. Plans are also being considered to create a breakwater area near the existing boat launch to make it easier to put boats in and take them out of the lake.
Another step that will follow the drawdown is removal of the existing fish that are in the lake. Roy Riles of Bastrop, who also remembers Bussey’s glory days, says it will be good riddance.
“Trash fish had taken over out there,” Riles said. “I think the plans they have for it are great.”
When the preliminary work is complete and water begins refilling the lake, Wood said one of the final steps would be to restock it with bass, bream, crappie and catfish.
Fishing is still allowed at Bussey as the project moves forward. Last week, the LDWF issued an advisory that closes the area to waterfowl hunting this season.
Given his lifelong history with Bussey, Wood said he appreciates the opportunity to be a part of its rebirth.
“We could rush through this and get it opened much quicker than we’ve planned,” Wood said. “I don’t want us to do that and come back a few years later and wonder what might have happened if we’d taken our time to re-establish it as one of the premier fishing spots in the state.”