BELLA VISTA -- Warmer weather is bringing more and more Bella Vista residents to area lakes. Warmer waters also increase the likelihood of hooking that big catch as many fish become more active.
So, which of Bella Vista's seven lakes is the best for bass fishing? Which is best for your casual catfish-seeker? Or in which can you find more lesser-known fish?
Here's a rundown of each of the POA-ran lakes with input on each from Rick Echols, the POA's Lakes and Fisheries superintendent.
Bella Vista's largest and newest lake was completed in 1981, spans 477 acres and provides the most diverse opportunities for multiple recreational uses, including hosting many tournaments.
The lake has ample room for skiing in its main bay and includes secluded coves where anglers pursue some of the best largemouth bass population in Bella Vista. Other fish found in Loch Lomond include bluegill, redear, crappie and large catfish.
Amenities at Loch Lomond include the full-service marina, a covered fishing dock, a fish-cleaning station, gas and bait sales, and boat rentals. There are also boat ramps and docks on the lake at Granton, Tiree and Stoneykirk Parks.
Echols' Take: "Recently at Loch Lomond, the fishing has improved quite a bit. There's larger fish available, particularly largemouth bass. Credit goes to our fertilization program which we have really been consistent about. And two, we feel like people are harvesting more of the smaller fish they catch which allows the fish that remain to grow. More food for them to grow."
Completed in 1970, Lake Ann is 112 acres and features a shoreline featuring limestone bluffs and rocky outcrop. The fish population at the lake includes largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and redear. Members and their guests can access these fish from either end of the lake for shoreline angling. Additionally, Lake Ann allows water skiing in its wide, long main bay.
Amenities at Lake Ann include a boat ramp, a courtesy dock, a pavilion, a fish-cleaning station, picnic tables, a grill and restrooms. Amenities at Lake Ann's dam include a multi-use dock, a fishing-only dock, a fish-cleaning station, an automatic fish-feeder, nighttime fishing lights and restrooms.
Echols' Take: "Lake Ann is a pretty consistent, well-balanced lake. It has decent largemouth bass and pretty good panfish, meaning fish like bluegill and redear. There are some large crappie in Lake Ann, but their numbers are fairly low. Still, some really good ones in there."
Lake Avalon is 67 acres and is Bella Vista's original lake, opening in 1968. It is the largest of Bella Vista's "no wake" lakes, meaning the only powered boats allowed are those with trolling motors.
Lake Ann's green-tinted water supports one of the densest fish populations in Bella Vista, second only to Lake Windsor. Sunfish are abundant in Lake Avalon, including many large bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish and warmouth sunfish in shoreline areas. These fish serve as prey for a lively population of largemouth bass and can be accessed from facilities at either end of the lake.
Amenities at Lake Avalon Park include a boat ramp with a courtesy dock, a pavilion, horseshoe pits and restrooms. Amenities at Lake Avalon's dam include a multi-use dock, three fishing piers, a year-around used heated fishing dock with a fish cleaning station, an automatic fish-feeder, nighttime fishing lights and restrooms.
Echols' Take: "Lake Avalon is a fairly good bluegill and redear lake. During the spring spawn, people target the spawning beds for those fish. Of course, the heated dock provides for people to fish when it's cold and rainy."
Built in 1979, Lake Brittany is 37 acres and is one of the two smallest lakes in Bella Vista. As another "no wake" lake, this is an easy spot to offload a boat for quiet paddling and fishing from a boat or from the dam.
Lake Brittany has a history of yielding large bass every year, often 10-pound or larger. In 2007, the lake yielded a bass weighing 11 1/2 pounds. Brittany also has one of the best populations of the prized redear sunfish and houses the POA's first trout fishery. Trout stocking began in December 2007 to create a winter fishery, providing members with cold-weather fishing while the warm-water species lay dormant.
Amenities at Lake Brittany's dam include a boat ramp with courtesy dock, two multi-use docks, a fish cleaning station and a restroom.
Echols' Take: "Brittany is our trout lake. We stock it from November to April. Our last stocking was a double stocking because we had ice in February and were delayed getting fish in, so we combined February and March. So, right now there are a lot of trout available, and we stocked some large ones. Because of the trout program, it provides trophy bass opportunity because some of the trout get eaten by the bass. Trout are cold-water fish, but we do get some survival into summer. That's rare in the South."
Completed in 1973, Lake Norwood is one of the two smallest lakes in Bella Vista at 33 acres. During warm weather, this is a favorite lunch spot for those wanting to use the picnic tables overlooking the lake. Lake Norwood is particularly scenic due to the prominently wooded, steep shorelines and low-housing density. This green-tinted lake supports populations of bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish.
Amenities at Lake Norwood's dam include a boat ramp with a courtesy dock, a picnic area, two multi-use docks, a fish-cleaning station and restrooms.
Echols' Take: "Lake Norwood is kind of a forgotten lake. We recently started to fertilize the lake. We haven't been getting the most bang for our buck just recirculating nutrients so we went the fertilization route. I've recently heard that people were catching quite a few catfish there. Just, for whatever reason, it's kind of forgotten. There is very little housing development around the lake and it's a smaller lake."
Completed in 1975, Lake Rayburn is 45 acres, another "no wake" lake and home to largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish. Amenities at Lake Rayburn's dam include a boat ramp with a dock, two multi-use docks, picnic and bank-fishing areas.
Echols' Take: "Lake Rayburn historically was our most stunted largemouth bass fisheries. We would get fish 10-12 inches, but they would stop growing from there. The lake has been full of bass but their size were all about the same. Recently, that has started to improve, and the quality is starting to improve."
Bella Vista's second-largest lake (220 acres) was completed in 1975 and is a popular place for skiing and fishing. Access areas are along Lake Windsor's dam and at the ends of the lake's two main arms. Lake Windsor is home to many water sports, fishing tournaments, and the green-tinted water includes largemouth bass, bluegill, redear, catfish and crappie.
The lake provides annual leased shoreline mooring and amenities at London Park, including a boat ramp with a dock, a fish-cleaning station, a pavilion and restrooms. Amenities at Lake Windsor's dam include a boat ramp with dock, two fishing piers and a restroom. Amenities at Windsor Park include a fishing pier, shoreline bank-fishing, picnic tables and grills.
Echols' Take: "Historically, Lake Windsor is our most-balanced lake. It has dropped off some in the past few years and you don't hear about many largemouth being caught. It does have some blue catfish. It's probably the second-most popular lake, only second to Loch Lomond and is the other where we have tournament fishing."