Construction of latest Lake Pontchartrain artificial reef to add fishing opportunities

CCA-sponsored reef being built near St. Tammany Parish Fishing Pier.

Work that began recently on an artificial reef near the St. Tammany Parish Fishing Pier south of Slidell will increase fishing opportunities for shore-bound Lake Pontchartrain anglers, the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana said.

The work is being done between the new westbound span of Interstate 10 and the pier — the latter of which is part of the old Interstate 10 Twin Spans Bridge that partially collapsed during Hurricane Katrina. The pier opened on Lake Pontchartrain in 2012 to enormous support, but has been closed since Hurricane Isaac battered Slidell last August.

The reef is the 12th such project for the state branch of CCA. The project involves taking sections of the old Twin Spans bridges that fell during Katrina, breaking them into 6-8 inch pieces and placing them on the floor of the lake, which is approximately 12-feet deep where the pier ends. The reef will consist of six segments that measure 50 feet by 100 feet and stand 3 feet high. It is being placed in a high-traffic area and is sure to be among the most popular of the CCA-built reefs when it is completed later this week, weather permitting.

“It’s a huge reef that literally will be accessible to thousands of fisherman at a time, if they choose to do it,” said CCA Louisiana Director David Cresson.

A major perk of the reef’s location is its proximity to the fishing pier, which was especially popular with people who don’t own boats. Coastal boat owners have taken significant losses in recent years due to tropical systems and how much of that population has purchased other boats isn’t exact science. What is known, however, is that the reef will be accessible to sizeable groups of both landlubbers and boaters.

“The reef out here close to the bridge is going to draw more fish out this way,” said Slidell CCA Chapter President Ron Harris. “This was a good place to start (this project.) Once the reef is here, it will build up barnacles and that will bring fish and then the bigger fish. Being on top of the food chain, hopefully we get some of the bigger fish for ourselves.”

Funding for the St. Tammany Pier Reef has been provided by Shell Oil, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Trust fund. Bertucci Contractors is assisting with construction on the new reef and continuing support is provided by the Paul Candies Family.

The project’s cost comes in at approximately $250,000. Two other artificial reefs in Lake Pontchartrain were constructed by the CCA and its partners, one each in 2010 and 2011.

“It’s a major expense,” said John Walther, CCA Louisiana Habitat Chairman. “We’re very fortunate to have some wonderful business partners… It’s a great partnership between non-profit volunteers, government, business and industry.”

For more information on the St. Tammany Pier Reef or CCA Louisiana, go online to www.ccalouisiana.com.

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