In the darkest days of World War II, outdoor recreation and fishing in general took a major change in Arkansas.
Lake Nimrod was completed in 1942. Work on a companion project, Blue Mountain Lake, was set aside for the duration of the war then was finished in 1947.
These two western Arkansas lakes were the first impoundments of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the state and today seem small and not nearly as well known as the larger ones that followed – Norfolk, Bull Shoals, Ouachita, Greers Ferry, Beaver and Millwood.
A little over 70 years have passed since Nimrod’s completion was a major event for the state. Today, both lakes are noted for their crappie fishing, although Blue Mountain is in a down cycle following a major drawdown.
Nimrod is on Fourche LaFave River. Blue Mountain is on Petit Jean River. Both were developments of an amazing series of projects drawn up by the Corps of Engineers during the Great Depression days of the 1930s. First came the extensive Tennessee Valley Authority dams to the east, and next in the focus of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs was the Arkansas River work.
Nimrod at 3,550 acres and Blue Mountain at 2,910 acres are modest in size in comparison to the much bigger lakes that followed. In the 1940s, though, they were impressive, even more than the two lakes built by Arkansas Power and Light for electricity generation – Catherine and Hamilton.
Nimrod and Blue Mountain were built for flood control. The later lakes had the purposes of flood control and power generation, and fishing and other recreation weren’t mentioned in the acts of Congress that authorized them.
Another byproduct of the two lakes has been duck hunting.
In numbers of birds that come in for the winter, Nimrod and Blue Mountain don’t have the tallies of the Grand Prairie and northeastern regions of Arkansas, but local hunters are well versed in chasing the migrating birds from the Central Flyway that follow the Arkansas River country.
Blue Mountain’s name comes from the big rise just to its north – Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. On most days throughout the year, a blue-tinged haze dominates the views.
Nimrod’s name has two theories of origin. One is that Nimrod is an ancient label from mythology that meant hunter. The other is that the lake was named for a nearby community that was part of a vast amount of land accumulated by Dr. Nimrod Menefee in the early days of Arkansas. To the east, the community of Menifee in Conway County is also traced to this fellow.
Both lakes have recreational areas with boat launching ramps and campgrounds. Several of the camping areas have electricity available and are suitable for vehicle camping as well as for tents.
Late spring is a strong period for fishing on the two lakes. A tip for anglers on Blue Mountain is the numerous new fish attractors that were installed during the drawdown. These are in shallow areas in all parts of the lake.
For Nimrod, check this fishing report from Ken Winstead at Whiskers Sporting Goods in Perryville. “Crappie have slowed some and are going for live minnows, Baby Shads, Slab Slay’rs and Stroll’rs in white /salt and pepper, red/chartreuse, bone white shad, Cajun cricket, pink cotton candy, barbecue chicken and blue/white with green or yellow PowerBait crappie nibbles. Bream are biting well on nightcrawlers, red worms, meal worms, crickets and rock hoppers. Bass are hitting tequila sunrise and dark-colored worms, spinner baits, Rooster Tails and Flukes. Catfish are biting nightcrawlers and chicken /turkey/rabbit livers.”
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock.