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The Outdoor News Hound -- Dearly Departed Create Fish Habitat
By J. R. Absher

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

May 26, 2004

Dearly Departed Create Fish Habitat
Here at the The Outdoor News Hound you recently read about the Irish shotgunner who wanted his cremated remains turned into targets for his fellow clay pigeon shooters. We've also heard tales about avid waterfowlers who've requested to have their ashes placed inside custom duck decoys to be enjoyed by hunting buddies. Now there's an offbeat idea for the angler who's looking for something, uh, a little different, if not eternal.

J.R. Absher

Also this week, you'll read about how a transplanted crawfish found itself in an Alaska stream, a sexy manatee hotline, an angler in Britain who resorts to an unusual surgical procedure to keep fishing, and much more!

Forever Fishing
Looking for an alternative to burial, or simply scattering the cremated remains of a departed loved one who may have had a special affinity for fishing and water? An Atlanta-based company that specializes in creating artificial reefs to improve diving and fishing habitat now offers an interesting choice to families seeking a lasting memorial tribute for loved ones.

In 2003, Eternal Reefs, Inc., joined with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to build a new memorial reef for fishing and diving seven miles off the south Texas coast. In late April, 2004, "reef balls" containing the ashes of 16 people were lowered 65 feet to the ocean floor near Hugh Taylor Birch Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Using a "reef ball" module comprised of environmentally-safe cast concrete that incorporates the cremated remains into a cement mixture, artificial reef formations are constructed at locations determined and approved by fisheries biologists and state commissions. The balls, which look like large moon rocks, are perforated with holes and dented with craters that can be used by marine life. After construction, the memorial reefs are cured prior to their placement in an ocean location selected by the individual, friend or family member.

Ashes To Fishes
The largest Eternal Reef is 4 feet high and 6 feet wide, weighs 4,000 pounds and costs $4,995. The cheapest is a community reef, which retails for $995 and holds the remains of multiple individuals. Expected to last 500 years, more than 250 memorial reefs have already been placed off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

According to the company, cremation is growing dramatically in the United States, and by 2010, 40 percent of all funerals will utilize the process. The Cremation Association of North America reports that 45 percent of families that have chosen cremation still have the remains at home sitting on a shelf or in a closet.

In addition to the Ft. Lauderdale installation, for 2004, Eternal Reefs has plans to build or expand installations in Sarasota and Pensacola, Fla., Chesapeake Bay, Va., Charleston, S.C., Ocean City, Md., and Atlantic City, N.J.

Liberated From Gumbo
These days, fisheries and wildlife biologists are always on the lookout for non-native plants, animals and fish that may have been illegally introduced into the environment. They know that such invasive species can spell disaster for ecosystems, with such difficult lessons having been learned with the kudzu plant in the southern states and the Asian carp in the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

So, when an alien crawfish was found in a Kenai, Alaska, stream a few weeks ago, biologists there were justifiably concerned about the impact a creature more common to Louisiana could have upon the state's fishery if it were established there.

Well, the mystery of the Alaska crawdad was solved last week when it became known that a young Anchorage girl released four live crustaceans into the swamp to save them from a pot of gumbo her mother was planning to prepare.

A biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported that the girl and a friend released four live crawfish into the creek, and one was discovered on May 4.

"She wanted to make it have a better life," said Fish and Game assistant area management biologist Larry Marsh.

The department is planning to place crawfish traps into the stream, in case the remaining three have survived. A spokesman also said that charges are not likely to be filed against the little girl responsible for all the fuss.

One Hot Number
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently discovered the phone number it has listed as a "manatee hotline" to report injured manatees, inadvertently leads callers to an x-rated, sex-chat line. As a result, the commission was forced to purchase thousands of decals to paste over the outdated phone number on signs at marinas and elsewhere on the state's waters.

The signs refer boaters to a toll-free number to call if they spot a manatee in distress. Prior to July of 1999, the number ended with "FMP," which stood for Florida Marine Patrol, but the marine patrol no longer exists. The FWC changed all its publications in 2001, but some of the agency's old publications and signs using the old number still exist.

On the discovery, the agency was quick to point out that the old number leads to "a commercial site, not endorsed by the agency nor dedicated to helping distressed manatees."

Double Duty Digits
A British angler who lost his fingers in a work-related accident had two of his toes transplanted to his hand so he could continue his favored fishing recreation.

Colin Thomas, 58, from Cockett in Swansea, lost all eight fingers when both his hands were caught in a roller at a steel plant. He feared his fishing days were over because he could not hold a rod, much less use a reel.

In a series of operations, surgeons removed the toes next to the big toes on each foot and attached them to his right hand. He holds the rod in his left hand with the use of a special glove, while the thumb and two toes on his right hand give him enough control to reel-in his catch.

"People stare at me but I've got used to that," Thomas says. "I always joke that I'm the only man who can pick his nose with his toes!"

Quote Of The Week
"I love pack trips and I love getting away from people, telephones, the smell of gasoline, typewriters, cocktail parties, television, importunate letters from editors. A long pack trip enables one to get back to basics. On each pack trip I relearn how important such things as food, warmth and rest are. A washpan filled with hot water is an incredible luxury, a seat on the pack pannier with a Scotch and creek water in hand is contentment."
-Jack O'Connor
The Stone Sheep
"Sheep and Sheep Hunting," 1974

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web site, The Outdoor Pressroom ( to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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