Lake­side weigh-in pav­il­ion ready for tour­na­ments at Prairie Creek

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NWA OUT­DOORS - FLIP PUT­THOFF

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,­cre­ 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.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUT­THOFF

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.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUT­THOFF

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.

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