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Group authorized to develop reefs

Thursday July 03, 2003

By Jerald Horst

The Lake Pontchartrain Artificial Reef Working Group has received a green light from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to develop a cluster of three sites in Lake Pontchartrain as artificial reefs.

The Working Group, led by John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Woody Crews of the Jefferson Parish Marine Fisheries Advisory Board, has been planning this project since the installation of the first artificial reef in the lake more than two years ago.

"This reef will be different than the first reef, which was very low-profile," Lopez said. "It will be constructed of reef balls to make a more complex habitat to attract and hold fish."

Reef balls are hollow, concrete half-spheres containing many windows. Two sizes of balls will be used, Lopez said. There will be 3-by-4-foot "pallet balls," and 2-by-3-foot "bay balls." The reef cluster will be west of the Causeway bridge, three miles from the Jefferson Parish shoreline.

"Lake Pontchartrain has a healthy fish population, but they are spread all over the lake, making them hard to locate," said Mark Schexnayder, LSU AgCenter fisheries adviser. "Right now almost all the fishing effort is concentrated at the bridges and at Seabrook, because there are no other places for fish to congregate."

Schexnayder, who includes this effort along with the refurbishment of Lafreniere and City Park lagoons and Bayou St. John in his Urban Fishing Enhancement Project, added "this should be another hot spot."

Lopez credited much of the success of the lake's reef projects to the Working Group's membership, which reads like a roster of the area's conservation and sportsmen's groups. The primary sources of money are The FishAmerica Foundation/NOAA Restoration Center and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, although additional sponsors are needed. Lopez may be contacted at (985) 847-1889.

Fishing seasons

-- Shrimp -- Offshore waters: open. Inshore waters: Zone 2 closed, Zones 1 and 3 open, but may close on short notice.

-- Oyster -- All public areas closed.

-- Redfish -- Federal waters: Recreational and commercial closed. State waters: Commercial closed; Recreational open.

-- Speckled trout -- Commercial rod and reel closed until Nov. 17.

-- Striped mullet -- Commercial strike net, closed until Oct. 20.

-- Pompano -- Commercial strike net season in Breton and Chandeleur sounds, closed until Aug. 1.

-- Swordfish -- Commercial open.

-- King mackerel -- Commercial open.

-- Spanish mackerel -- Commercial open.

-- Giant bluefin tuna -- Recreational open. Commercial open.

-- Red snapper -- Recreational open until Oct. 31. Commercial open until July 10.

-- Deep-water groupers (warsaw, strawberry, misty, snowy, yellowedge) -- Commercial open.

-- Gag, black and red groupers -- Commercial open until Feb. 15.

-- Amberjack -- Commercial open to Feb. 29.

-- Bullfrogs and lagoon frogs -- open to March 31.

-- Large coastal sharks in federal waters -- open until Sept. 15.

-- Sharks in state waters -- Commercial and recreational open.


-- The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will meet Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Wildlife and Fisheries Building, 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge.

-- The Louisiana State Seafood Industry Advisory Board will meet Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Wildlife and Fisheries Building, 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge.

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