Boat lane markers

Many boat lane markers such as this have been stolen or displaced from White Oak Lake near Chidester.

Lower White Oak Lake in Ouachita and Nevada counties, which underwent a renovation by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission earlier this decade, has seen several boat lane markers moved or go missing in recent years.

This presents a safety issue because Lower White Oak Lake has many stumps below the surface.

“Those boat lane markers were put in around 2013, 2014, after the work was completed, and since then we’ve had issues with folks moving them,” said Andy Yung, supervisor of AGFC Fisheries District 6. “They’re cutting them loose, dragging them into the brush, and some of the markers are just disappearing. We’ve had to go around the shoreline and pick them out multiple times.”

Yung said Lower White Oak Lake is the only lake under AGFC control that has these type of boat lane buoys. With money left over during Lower White Oak’s renovation, the AGFC was able to purchase buoys to outline the boat lanes. The markers are connected with steel cable and weighted to the bottom with concrete and rebar. Fisheries personnel are finding some instances of the cable cut about a foot below the marker.

“We were able to obtain those markers as a show of appreciation to those folks who gave up their lake for a while to be fully rebuilt. We had the foresight to mark them with GPS so they are on the AGFC app and website,” he noted. “That’s what we’re having to use to reset them.”

Yung’s issue is not with having to reset the markers – “that’s just part of the job,” he said – it’s the safety issue for anglers who would be boating, especially those unfamiliar with the lake.

“My concern is someone out there with a little kid, if they have an accident because somebody has messed with the boat lanes, or if somebody is seriously injured in an accident or killed because somebody doesn’t like the boat lane markers and moves them.”

Yung says the markers may be getting displaced accidently when boaters snag one on their way out to fish. Then, it appears they just cut it loose. However, boaters who may be moving the markers intentionally are violating the law.

AGFC wildlife officers check on the lake periodically, but they have other lakes to police beyond Upper and Lower White Oak Lake.

Yung urges anyone who sees the boat lane markers being moved to call the AGFC’s hotline, where they can anonymously leave a tip 24/7. The number is 800-482-9262.

“Folks, you are our eyes on the ground, you can call the number anonymously,” he said. “Just let us know. We want it to stop and we need it to stop. Storms and other natural events can move the markers around. But at the rate these are moving around and disappearing, this is not a natural rate.”

Yung added, ”We want everyone to enjoy the resource, and Lower White Oak is a tremendous resource with tremendous fishing going on right now. It’s just disappointing that some boats are going through and messing that up.” He said the AGFC staff went out before Labor Day and reset more than 20 buoys, marking the fifth time they’ve had to do that in the past four years. “We ran up and down the lane with no issues, so everything is good now.”

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