Artificial fish structure added to Four Bayous

(Photo courtesy CCA)

Four Bayous Pass in lower Barataria Bay is a spring and summertime magnet for speckled trout and those aiming to catch a few.

Located just about halfway between Grand Isle to the west and Port Sulphur and Empire to the east, the Four Bayous area is dotted with fish-rich, piling and concrete riprap reefs, the relics of the dozens of fishing camps, oyster processing houses and oil and gas wells that once stood in the bay.

Another artificial reef will provide the thousands of anglers who fish Four Bayous annually with a new option to search for trout, redfish and sheepshead.

Bringing new hope

The Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana teamed up with Chevron and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to deposit more than 2,000 tons of limestone across a five-acre area in Bay Ronquille, just east of Four Bayous, to try and replace some of the natural habitat lost in the area over the last several decades.

“A lot of people fish that area and we know through working with local fishermen and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries that much of the natural oyster reefs and small islands that held fish out there have degraded from hurricanes and other factors,” said CCA Louisiana Vice President for Habitat and Conservation John Walther. “Our aim is to replace some of what’s been lost and to encourage the return of oysters, fish and crabs.”

Construction of the reef began the week of May 16 and was complete within seven days. Materials and labor costs were donated by Madere & Sons/Deep South Construction. The overall cost of the reef was $250,000, with half coming from CCA and Chevron and half from Wildlife and Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Development Fund. Generally, fish will begin populating reefs within weeks of construction.

The golf ball-sized limestone was placed at least six feet below the water’s surface with humps and depressions built in to mimic natural bottom contours and enhance productivity. Similar inshore reefs built by CCA Louisiana and Wildlife and Fisheries have used recycled, crushed concrete and construction materials.

“Using crushed concrete wasn’t an option with this reef because of the shallowness of the water,” Walther said. “We didn’t want to chance boats hitting concrete chunks or shrimp nets getting caught in the concrete.”

Four Bayous is hot

Capt. Frank Dreher frequents Four Bayous from his launching spot at Grand Isle’s Bridgeside Marina. He said when the wind has laid down this spring it has been holding more trout than anywhere else he’s found in Barataria Bay.

“We’re finding the fish all along the old campsites and in the areas where there is sunken rip rap and shell pads but when word gets out the trout are biting some of those reefs will have 8-10 boats on them,” he said. “Anytime we can get more structure around Grand Isle it’s a good thing for fishing because we’ve lost so much marsh and small islands over the last 20 years.”

Walther said CCA Louisiana has submitted proposals for seven more inshore and nearshore reefs in areas from Jefferson Parish across the coast to Cameron Parish. Those include reefs in 50-100 feet of water to replace structure lost when oil and gas rigs have been removed. Thirty-seven reefs have been built by CCA Louisiana in partnership with Wildlife and Fisheries and corporate donors since 2002.

He added that fishing on other reefs in the Grand Isle area has been very good this spring as well, especially the eight-plus acre Independence Island Reef located about five miles west of Four Bayous. Coordinates to all inshore artificial reefs are available on the Wildlife and Fisheries website.

“We want people to know these reefs are there and to enjoy them,” he said. “I know a lot of fishermen go past them to places they can see above the water. They tend to forget about the reefs. But I fish them all the time and they are usually very productive.”

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