May 20, 2021
By Lynn Burkhead
When you visit the "Where to Fish" page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website, you will not find the name of Bois d'Arc Lake.
But it's coming, maybe even sooner than expected, especially if the Red River Valley of North Texas continues to get soggy weather. The combination of the new 16,641-acre reservoir's dam being closed recently as construction work winds down, and multi-inch rainfall in the region over the past couple of weeks has caused the new lake to start filling up pretty quickly.
And with more heavy—and maybe even flooding rainfall—still expected, who knows how long the new lake will actually need to fill up?
Located to the northeast of Bonham, Texas, in Fannin County, we chronicled the super bass stocking efforts at Bois d'Arc in recent months after TPWD's Inland Fisheries biologists made sure the lake was full of the right genetics.
And mind you, those are not the standard-issue Florida strain fingerlings put into various bass lakes around the Lone Star State. They are actually more than 10,000 adult-sized offspring produced by ShareLunker bass. With the lake now infused with super-bass genetics, all that is left to do is to sit back, watch the weather radar, and patiently wait.
"Expectations are kind of hard to nail down for any new lake," said Dan Bennett, the TPWD inland fisheries biologist who heads up the Lake Texoma Fisheries Station near Denison, and is responsible for fisheries management in this part of the state.
"The hopes are certainly high for Bois d'Arc Lake," he continued. "But I've compared it in the past to having a child, someone that you hope might one day pitch for the Texas Rangers or play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Until they get to be old enough, you just never know what might happen."
Like a parent who takes a child to summer camps, specialized coaches, and elite travel squads in an effort to maximize their athletic talent, Bennett and his staff have been hard at work for several years now, trying to stack the fishing odds in the favor of Bois d'Arc becoming a bucketmouth destination spot.
While obviously smaller than 27,264-acre Lake Fork some 90 miles to the south, Bennett is hopeful that the new lake can become a superb bass fishery in its own right, one even capable of producing numerous trophy-size largemouths in the 7-to-10-pound range and beyond.
And with any luck, he is even hopeful that there will be some ShareLunker magic from Bois d'Arc one day, and maybe even a push for the longstanding largemouth bass state record mark of 18.18 pounds, a benchmark set at Fork in January 1992 by crappie angler Barry St. Clair.
Fork Recipe for D'Arc
That's a lofty dream for sure, but it's one that has energized the biologist for several years now since Bennett took over the Denison district office following the retirement of longtime TPWD biologist Bruce Hysmith. About the same time that Bennett arrived in his new office, a perfect storm soon started as the North Texas Municipal Water District pushed ahead with plans for Bois d'Arc Lake and its construction, including the potential of a trophy-bass fishery.
"They reached out to us in about 2015 if my memory serves correct, about the time I first got up here," said Bennett. "It wasn't long before we were meeting with them, touring existing ponds, and looking at the footprint of what would become the lake."
As all of this began to unfold, the wheels were turning in Bennett's head—along with those of other inland fisheries biologists at TPWD—about putting Lake Fork's construction recipe into motion at Bois d'Arc.
For starters, as we have noted previously, Bennett and his staff have been very purposeful in how they have tried to stock the lake a handful of miles south of the Red River.
But equally important in helping Bois d'Arc achieve big-bass glory is that the lake's habitat looks quite suitable for those stocked fish.
While Bennett acknowledges it will be some time before water clarity and the amount of native aquatic vegetation in a filled-up Bois d'Arc lake is fully known, glancing at smaller nearby lakes like Bonham City Lake, Coffee Mill Lake, and Davy Crockett Lake, he is hopeful in those regards.
"In terms of vegetation, I suspect that Bois d'Arc will have plenty of it from looking at local ponds and the other lakes in the area," said Bennett. "They are chock full of coontail, pond weed, and there's lots of lotus as well."
Bennett said that if necessary, TPWD might see about a few planned introductions of native vegetation, species like Illinois pond weed.
"But the success of planned introductions of vegetation is usually on the low side, so we don't want to put all of our eggs into the idea of introducing and propagating plants," he said. "What will have the best chance will be what's already there and naturally expanding."
Flooded Timber to the West
While submerged aquatic vegetation was a key component at Lake Fork—including the invasive hydrilla that anglers love and biologists and homeowners often dislike—so too was the lunker factory's vast acreage of flooded timber, something that will also be prominent at Bois d'Arc.
While the eastern end of the new Fannin County reservoir will feature a good amount of open grassland prairie country, there will also be a big amount of inundated timber left in the western end. While it isn't as tall as the timber stands originally left in Lake Fork where my guide friend Rob Woodruff used to guide for many years, he and his wife Jenny Mayrell-Woodruff—the 2018 Orvis endorsed freshwater fly fishing guide of the year who grew up in Fannin County—think there's a good chance that it will be enough.
As Rob told me a few days ago, bass don't care about what's above the water's surface, they care about what's below. And there should be enough timber and brush to make Bois d'Arc's bass plenty happy.
In fact, Bennett said that the bulk of the timber was left in approximately 40 percent of the new lake, mostly in the western end and in the backs of smaller arms and coves.
"Visually, it will look a lot like Fork or Ray Roberts, to the west of the new bridge (FM 897) that is," he said. "There are going to be lots of visible trees and it will be quite difficult to navigate through it all, at least at first. There is a 200-yard wide boat lane that has been cut through the middle to allow for access on the upper end of the lake.
"And what they did clear, they took the largest timber from that and consolidated it into 42 massive brush piles in the lower end of the lake," he added. "Those are up to 60 feet in length and are cabled and weighed down and will be on the bottom in various depths ranging from 20 to 40 feet."
Points, Creek Channels, Ledges, Oh My
Another major component here is the new lake's ample structure, contour features that will be seen on a good paper map or on a bass rig's high-dollar electronics.
"There are lots of structural components lying on the bottom of this lake," said Bennett. "There are tons and tons of creek channels, points, etc. One thing that really gets me excited is the complex shoreline at Bois d'Arc. There are lots of coves and miles and miles of shoreline that I suspect will provide a lot of good bass and crappie habitat."
Some of that will be ditches and creeks leading into prime springtime spawning habitat on flats and in the back end of coves. Other structure will be offshore, the kind of humps, ledges, and drop-offs that should delight summertime anglers tossing jigs, crankbaits and flutter spoons.
Bennett said that while there is ample natural structure in the new lake, there is also plenty of manmade features that will be lying on the bottom, too.
"There are lots of old roadbeds, bridges, old building foundations, tank dams, etc.," he said. "I think there's something like 240-plus ponds in the footprint that will be inundated. And they took a lot of the old concrete and concrete culverts and consolidated that into (attractor) piles, so to speak, like we requested."
While it will be a number of months before Bois d'Arc's bass habitat is filled and officially open to fishing, hopes continue to rise with every rainfall that it's only a matter of time before monster bass start getting reeled in by anglers.
With any luck, those bucketmouths will reach double digit weights and cause plenty of fishing headlines.
And with a whole lot of luck, one of those headlines might actually someday herald a new state-record largemouth at Bois d'Arc Lake, just like TPWD biologist Dan Bennett is dreaming of.