Lakeside weigh-in pavilion ready for tournaments at Prairie Creek
Fish and anglers take center stage at Beaver Lake now that the Prairie Creek fishing tournament weigh-in pavilion is open and ready for use.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers worked to get the pavilion built. Fishermen also donated thousands of dollars in labor and use of equipment for the lakeside pavilion. It will be used mostly for bass tournaments, but the pavilion can be used for other events such as weddings or education programs.
There are scales for weighing fish and aerated water-filled tanks to keep fish healthy while anglers wait their turn at the scales.
A dedication of the pavilion was held July 7. At least one tournament group has already used it. Game and Fish and the corps also invited tournament directors to the pavilion on July 5 to show them how everything works. The scale had not yet arrived, but Game and Fish and one tournament director assured directors the scale is easy to use.
There’s no charge to use the facility, but all tournament organizers must purchase a special event permit from the corps no matter where on the lake the weigh-in is held, said Jared Trammell, the corps’ chief ranger for recreation at Beaver Lake.
A special event permit for a tournament with 30 people or less costs $30. The fee is $ 75 if there are more than 30. For a tournament with 20 people or less that is held frequently and on a regular basis, such as once a week, there is a one-time fee of $30 per year. The fees are in place at corps lakes nationwide, Trammell said.
There is added cost for very large fishing tournaments that require ranger assistance or traffic control, he noted. A special event permit is also required for other events such as wakeboard tournaments or weddings held at Beaver Lake. Four weddings are already scheduled at the pavilion, Trammell said.
Any group with a special event permit may use the Prairie Creek weigh-in pavilion and its equipment at no additional cost.
To obtain a special event permit and reserve the pavilion, call the corps office in Rogers, 479-636-1210 extension 0. There is a picnic shelter next to pavilion that may be reserved through the National Recreation Resources System, www.recreation.gov. It’s the site to reserve campsites at Beaver Lake and other destinations around the United States.
The weigh-in pavilion is simple to operate, as Trammell showed tournament directors last week. Three switches run the whole thing. One switch turns on the lights, another fills the two holding tanks with lake water and a third starts the aerators.
When anglers weigh their catch, fish are placed in heavy-duty plastic weigh-in bags that anglers fill with lake water. Fishermen bring their bag to the holding tanks and place the bag in the tank.
There are several small aerator hoses at each tank. An angler places an aerator hose in their water-filled bag of fish to add oxygen to the water and keep the fish alive and healthy.
Fish are brought to the scales, quickly weighed and then released. Some large tournaments use a release boat to transport fish around the lake for release, but most are released from shore near the pavilion.
Shannan Moseley runs the Everett Team Trail tournament circuit, which is the largest on Beaver Lake.
“They couldn’t have designed this to operate any more simply,” Moseley said. “I think it’s a pretty good deal. We’ve really needed something like this.”
Trammell noted about 100 bass tournaments are held out of Prairie Creek park each year.
Everett tournaments use a professional grade scale designed for tournament use. Jon Stein, fisheries biologist with Game and Fish, said that same brand of scale is on order and will arrive soon. Tournament officials may use their own scales.
The pavilion’s weigh- in stage is brightly lit, which is handy for night tournaments during summer. Weigh-ins are held in the wee hours of 2 or 3 a.m.
When a group reserves the pavilion, it receives a key code that unlocks the door to access the switches and scales. Down the road, it’s hoped that a leader board can be purchased.
In winter, the plumbing will be drained and groups won’t be able to use the holding tanks. But they can use the scales and lights.
The contract attendants at Prairie Creek park will clean the facility periodically, but groups are expected to clean up after their event, Trammell said.
Total cost was about $294,500. Of that, $221,000 came from the national Sport Fish Restoration Program, which places an excise tax on fishing equipment. Money is distributed to states for fishing related projects.
Game and Fish funded $41,000. Bass club members and other volunteers donated about $32,500 in labor and equipment use, Stein said.
The goal of the pavilion is keeping fish alive and healthy, Trammell said. Black bass are the most popular fish at Beaver Lake, according to Game and Fish. Tournaments that attract up to 500 or more anglers point to the popularity of competitive bass fishing.
“Fish have to be taken care of,” Moseley said. “That’s what keeps us coming back year after year.”
Kevin Hopkins (second from left), fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and Shannan Moseley, (foreground right), a tournament director, look at fish holding tanks at the Prairie Creek fishing tournament weigh-in facility.
The Prairie Creek fishing tournament weigh-in pavilion is ready for use. It is available to any group holding a fishing tournament by calling the Army Corps of Engineers to reserve it.