A wide variety of fish await anglers at Harris Brake Lake

Writer and outdoor photographer Corbet Deary is featured regularly in The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a trip to Harris Brake Lake.

Sandy and I recently loaded our dog, Sydney, into the rig and set off for an afternoon excursion. Our intentions were to visit a small recreation area nestled in the heart of the Ouachitas, which we did.

And it turned out that we still had plenty of time to visit another destination before the evening light gave way to darkness. With that in mind, we embarked on a short drive to a place that I had visited several times over the years.

In fact, this particular body of water was one of those places where I try to get a hook wet at least once or twice a year. And while I did not manage to carry a rod and reel with me on this particular trip, I was more than happy to just wander along sections of its shore and experience a relaxed getaway in the middle of the beautiful nature.

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Located adjacent to the Harris Brake Wildlife Management Area, Harris Brake Lake is the third largest reservoir owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in the state.

The reservoir is located just south of Perryville and can be seen from Hwy 9/10 on occasion. There is actually a ramp on this side of the lake. However, most of the land along the route is privately owned.

The lake is most easily accessible from Route 300. In fact, two public ramps are accessible from this particular stretch of road.

Those unfamiliar with the lake might find it beneficial to use the first accessible ramp from 300, as it’s located a short walk from a bait shop.

Of course, the owner will be more than happy to share the most up to date fishing report. And of course, many will likely need live bait. And those who prefer to cast artificial decoys may find the recently proven model on their shelves.

Those with physical limitations and those who don’t own a boat might find Harris Brake Lake interesting, as it sports an impressive fishing pier.

You would think the waters near the pier are seeing their fair share of fishing pressure, however a local fisherman, who was using the structure on our last visit, assured me that she was catching her fair share of fish. – river chat of the structure. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other native species of game fish also frequent this particular section of the lake.

Guess one could find a few designated primitive campsites along the water’s edge. But it seems that many anglers consider the lake a day trip destination.

The reservoir was built in 1955 and is relatively shallow compared to the lakes in our region. Although its deepest waters are 28 feet, it sports an average depth of 10 feet.

Standing timber is prominent in all sections of the main bay, much of which protrudes from the surface. However, other sections are much easier to navigate. But one must keep in mind the submerged structures within its perimeters until they become familiar with the body of water.

Speaking of structures, fish swimming within its perimeters should have no problem finding their favorite cover. In addition to large stands of dead wood, several cypress trees also grow in the lake.

Man-made fish structures have been added to the mix, and those who prefer fishing along the docks will have plenty of optimal waters waiting for them.

A few sunken islands lurk in the murky waters. Of course, the submarine points should never be ignored, nor the channels that wind along the substrate.

There are also a few pockets scattered around the lake. And anyone who has spent a lot of time fishing will probably be quick to admit that these waters are often efficient. These indentures in the main water body are often shaded and it is common to find water willows growing along their edges.

There are several houses located along the shore. However, other sections of the riverbank are shaded by the canopy of native trees.

Now on to the million dollar question. What species of fish seem to thrive the most on this particular body of water? Well, you shouldn’t be surprised if they notice a few rough fish in the shallows or swimming near the surface, as all of our lakes provide habitat for these fish to thrive.

But it’s also home to a fair share of species that anglers notoriously seek out. Harris Brake is a great destination for those who like to catch crappie from the water.

I visited this lake with the intention of focusing mainly on sea bream fishing. And I don’t remember a release where I didn’t have at least some success. In fact, it is not uncommon to get impressive yields when nesting.

Of course, choosing a time when they actively breed is essential. But if the timing is right, they are nothing more than a tube of crickets on a memorable outing.

Although not an avid crappie fisherman, I have spoken to several people who have thrown in these waters for this delicious table meal. Those planning to try their hand at crappie fishing on this particular body of water should definitely consider making a pit stop and chewing the grease with those who run the local bait shop.

Crappie can be finicky at times and will be very particular. In turn, it may prove more beneficial to know if they hit live bait or if they are the most responsive to artificial presentations. And then comes the challenge of choosing the most effective colors and the right depth.

I also spent my fair share of time fishing the Harris Brake perimeters for largemouth bass. They, too, can be somewhat demanding. However, I suspect that one can get to this body of water with a handful of lures with a good chance of seeing some success.

A plastic worm is effective in just about every lake in the state. And my favorite color choice is watermelon / red and purple. But you don’t necessarily have to throw soft plastics to get a bass to bite. In fact, various surface lures are often the answer, while those who cast spinnerbaits are just as prone to lure a few into the boat.

I’ve spoken to several locals over the years who seem to love dipping a nightcrawler or a piece of chicken liver in its waters. And while most of the people I’ve spoken to primarily catch river catfish, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a few flathead and blue cats were found in the lake as well.

Yes, Harris Brake Lake has served anglers for over 65 years. And I suspect it will continue to provide those who love the sport with memories for years to come.

To get to Harris Brake Lake from Hot Springs, drive north on Park Avenue / Highway 5 for approximately 20 miles and turn left on Highway 9 to Crow. Travel 21 miles and turn left on Hwy 10/9 at Williams Junction. Travel 8.6 miles and turn right on Hwy 300. Go eight tenths of a mile and turn right on Coffee Creek Landing Road. Travel 300 feet to the destination.

The ADA Pier at Harris Brake Lake gives everyone access to their productive waters. – Photo by Corbet Deary from The Sentinel-Record

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