Johnny Cantrell, Biologist, Ouachita Project Management Office.



Crappie condos projects, Lake Greeson and Degray Lake Article.
Written by: Johnny Cantrell,  biologist for the Ouachita Project Management Office in the 2011 winters edition of "The Water's Edge" a Corps of Engineers News Magazine Publication..

Sometimes you never know how being in the right place at the right time can produce a solution to a problem! This happened to me during a visit to the Centerpoint High School Agriculture Department, in October 2008, to check on the progress being made on some projects the students were building for me. This was my only purpose for stopping by the Agri Shop that morning, but I was about to get an offer for a solution to a problem I had been working on for some time as a biologist for the Ouachita Project Management Office.

For the past 30 years or so, the Corps has been constructing fish attractors from discarded Christmas trees, cull hardwood brush and even old automobile tires, to produce shelters for various species of game fish. Our biggest provider of Christmas trees was the Hunter Christmas Tree Farm in the nearby community of Manchester. We had just recently completed the job of cutting and removing the last of the Virginia Pine trees deemed too large to sell. The farm was going out of business due to the owner’s retirement, and would leave the Corps looking for another source of fish attractor material.

As I entered the Centerpoint Agri shop, I asked one of the students to direct me to Jerry Fendley’s office. This was Jerry’s first year at Centerpoint and I had not yet met him. After the introductions, we moved to the shop area where we discussed other matters; as I was about to leave, the conversation turned to fishing. Jerry is an avid crappie fisherman and wanted to know if he could build a few crappie condos for Degray Lake. Crappie condo is a “localized” slang term for bamboo structures built with a 5 gallon bucket of concrete as a base. We discussed the protocol for members of the public adding fish shelters to our lakes. As we discussed fishing on our three Arkansas lakes, I couldn’t help but notice the beehive-like activity of several Centerpoint Agri students working on various projects all over the spacious shop area. While Jerry continued to talk about his passion for fishing, my mind was beginning to envision these same students building crappie condos – lots of crappie condos!!

Thomas Edison may have summed up the situation best when he said, “Opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I remember interrupting Jerry’s fishing stories to see what he thought about getting his students involved in building additional crappie condos during their “shop time.”

A few days later, after permission was granted for the students of his natural resource management (NRM) class to take on the project, a partnership was established. Personnel from both Lake Greeson and Degray Lake would provide enough quickrete to build a hundred condos. Students would solicit buckets from logging contractors, lumber mills, auto mechanic shops and even some restaurants in the area. All buckets containing petroleum products were pressure washed to clean out the residue before adding the bamboo and concrete. Bamboo, growing on an area located near the school, was donated to the school to finish out the materials list.

Fendley’s NRM students, 20 in number, started construction on the condos on February 10. The project consumed about 750 hours which included gathering the bamboo, cutting it into specified lengths and adding it to the buckets of concrete. In all, just fewer than 200 condos were completed. Several of the students were able to spend a few hours on the lake with Corps personnel during the placement stage of the project. The condos were dropped at pre-determined sites in Degray Lake and Lake Greeson. Amy Spence, one of the young ladies in the class, had this comment about the project, “Last year, when we were working with the Corps building crappie condos, I had a lot of fun. Working with the guys and getting to actually go out on the Corps’ barge and help put them in the lake was super fun!” Amy has decided she will major in biology when she enters college in the fall of 2011.

The crappie condo partnership has been featured on, one of the most popular websites for fishermen wanting to exchange information. Listed under Forums, there have been more than 13,000 hit from approximately 20 states, as far away as Iowa and Illinois for Building Fish Habitat on Lake Greeson and Degray. Some posted notable comments include: “My FFA chapter, many, many moons ago never did a project that neat”; “The cooperation is a textbook example of how it should be for sure!!” One individual from Texas, when he heard the concrete mixer at the school needed repairs, posted: “If we can pitch in a few bucks to help fix it, please let me know or maybe we can rent you one.”

Jerry Fendley states, “This project has, be far, been the most popular project I have ever been a part of since entering the teaching field. We have had more positive comments from our community on this than any other project we have worked on and I hope it becomes an annual part of my natural resources management class here at Centerpoint.”

 Johnny Cantrell,  biologist for the Ouachita Project Management Office.


All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Latest Kirby, Arkansas, weather

Lake Greeson

      "The Water's Edge"
    COE News Magazine

 Waters Edge Winter 2010
 Waters Edge Spring 2010
 Waters Edge Summer 2010
 Waters Edge Fall 2010
 Waters Edge Winter 2011
 Waters Edge Spring 2011

Lake Greeson
in Pictures

Lake Greeson
Information Center

 Camp Sites
on Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson

Arkansas State Park
 on Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson
  Narrows Dam

Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson
Black Bass

History of
 Lake Greeson