Big Lake Wildlife Management Area is located in Franklin, Madison, and Tensas Parishes, 12 miles east of Gilbert. Major access routes to the area are Louisiana Highways 4 and 610. The Department maintains a system of all-weather gravel roads throughout the area, and numerous ATV trails provide access to the interior of the area. Several hiking trails follow old pipeline rights-of-way.
Big Lake WMA is comprised of approximately 19,231 acres, including 7 small lakes with the largest approximately 160 acres in size. Six bayous flow through the area providing a total of approximately 25 miles of waterways.
Flat and generally poorly drained, the terrain varies from 55-65 feet mean sea level. Seasonal flooding occurs dependent on water levels with the Tensas River basin, but periodic flooding may occur anytime after periods of localized heavy rainfall.
Most of the forested component of the management area consists of relatively closed overstory canopy with a fairly dense understory. Timber value is moderate due to previous logging prior to acquisition by the department. Major timber species composing the overstory are Nuttall oak, overcup oak, willow oak, American elm, sweetgum, bitter pecan, green ash, hackberry, and honey locust. Other overstory species include willow, sycamore, persimmon, red maple, cypress, and box elder.
Understory species include rattan, grapevine, dewberry, blackberry, deciduous holly, swamp dogwood, and elderberry. Switchcane, baccharis, buttonbush, poison ivy, and greenbriar are also common.
Whitetailed deer, turkey, squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons, along with limited waterfowl and woodcock hunting opportunities can be found on the area. Deer and squirrel hunting opportunities are normally very good. Due to several excellent hatching years in the late 1990's, continuing through 2000-2002, wild turkey populations may have reached an all-time high. Specific habitat improvement projects completed by the department during this time have also helped the native turkey flock continue to grow. A youth lottery turkey hunt is held each year on the weekend prior to the regular turkey season.
Trapping for furbearers is allowed, and the species available are raccoon, otter, nutria, mink, beaver, bobcat, coyote, fox, and opossum. Alligator populations have also increased, and in 2002, a limited alligator hunting season was initiated. Five alligator tags are given to each successful hunter determined by a public lottery drawing held each summer.
Sport and commercial fishing are popular, limited only by the acreage of available water. Bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish are caught by recreational fishermen, and commercial fishermen take carp, buffalo, drum, gar, and catfish. Four improved boat ramps have been constructed.
During the northward spring migration, Big Lake WMA is visited by dozens of species of passerine birds, and the area is a very popular birdwatching destination. Resident bird species are common throughout the year, and the diverse habitat types found on the area produce an assortment of birdwatching opportunities. The American Bird Conservancy has recognized Big Lake WMA in its Important Birding Areas Program.
Improvements to the Trusler Lake Nature Trail have been proposed, and when completed will provide a unique experience for nature lovers.
Additional information may be obtained from LDWF, P.O. Box 1640, Ferriday, LA 71334.