Freddie McMullen, now a successful 51-year-old Monroe orthodontist, spent his formative years on Black Bayou Lake.
“It was where the previous generation,” he said, “used to fish in the area — along with the Ouachita River and lakes off it, and Bayou and Lake D’Arbonne. Our parents introduced my little brother Mike and me to it.
“We fished it for bass, white perch and bream. We frogged, duck hunted in it and rabbit hunted around it. I camped out on islands with Mike and a friend. Now only daylight use is allowed, and you can’t camp, frog or run yo-yos like we used to.”
The McMullens lived in Monroe until Freddie was in the sixth grade, and then they moved to within short walking distance of the lake. The boys’ father kept a small boat with a 6-horsepower motor in the water body for their use.
They almost lived on the lake.
In what McMullen calls “the old days” it was different.
“They had two private boat launches on the lake that had small stores and sold bait,” he said. “My dad and brother would stop at a bar on Highway 165 when we went to the lake. The owners, Ollie and Marie is all I remember, had a talking chihuahua: If you bought a Slim Jim and gave it to him, he would bark, ‘I love my moma and my poppa.’ The dog was on the Ed Sullivan Show once.
“It’s been a refuge since 1997. On the last night before it became a refuge, Mike and I ran yo-yos. The next day we came back and I got ticket No. 2. I still have it.”
The lake is still flecked with abandoned waterfowl blinds, even though blind construction has been prohibited since 1997. Many were sturdily constructed of heavy timbers and metal piping — built to last. Even though they were built on public property, they were considered the private property of the hunters who built them.
“Just about everybody knew everybody else, so there was no conflict,” said McMullen.
But things are changing, he noted ruefully. The lake edge, especially in the cove areas, is filling in with vegetation deposits.
“(The Louisiana Department of) Wildlife and Fisheries used to spray the vegetation before it became a refuge,” he said. “You used to be able to run all over with an outboard.”
Today, McMullen lives seven or eight miles away on Bayou DeSiard, with a backyard he can fish in. He can hang 80 yo-yos within sight of his house to keep him busy.
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