Partnership with LDWF and Shell creates much needed fish habitat

 

Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana, Shell Oil, Building Conservation Trust (CCA's National Habitat Program) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), began construction on a new artificial reef, located in the St. John Parish portion of Lake Pontchartrain on October 18. 

In a ceremony at Frenier Landing, the reef was dedicated as the “Vincent Matherne Reef” in honor of the late Vincent Matherne, a founding member of CCA’s River Parishes Chapter and a life-long outdoorsman and conservation leader. The project was conceived by the River Parishes CCA Chapter in 2015, and chapter volunteers have worked since then with parish and state officials to see their reef proposal come to fruition.

Vincent Matherne’s family was on hand for the dedication. His son Craig said he and his family were deeply moved by the honor for his father.

“This is a true legacy for my dad, who loved this coast, loved to fish, and loved CCA and everything it stands for,” said Matherne. “On behalf of my mom and the entire Matherne family, thank you to CCA and the project partners who made this happen.”

The new reef is located in the southwestern-most portion of Lake Pontchartrain close to where I-10 and I-55 merge. It is being constructed of approximately 4,000 tons of limestone in the 10-acre reef site. Its proximity to Frenier Landing makes it easily accessible to anglers using a variety of vessels.

“The site we selected near the landing was actually the remnant of an old shell pad, so there was a great base there already,” said LDWF Biologist Ashley Ferguson. “From there, we worked closely with CCA and the other partners to design the layout of the new material in a way that should maximize the effectiveness and productivity of the reef.”

CCA River Parishes’ Habitat Chairman Allen Dupont says the project should create some great new opportunities for anglers who like to fish the area. 

“People catch a lot of fish in this end of Lake Pontchartrain, but we were in desperate need of more habitat to improve fishing,” Dupont said. “Fish congregate around structure, and there simply isn’t a lot of bottom structure here. The Vincent Matherne Reef will provide new structure that will become productive habitat for fish, and create a new fishing spot for anglers.”

Outdoor TV and radio personality Don Dubuc, who attended the dedication, agrees with Dupont. “Western Lake Pontchartrain is a great place to fish, but it is underutilized by anglers,” said Dubuc. “There are times of year when speckled trout will move to this area of the Lake, and this new structure will provide those fish with much needed habitat. Kudos to CCA and their partners for developing this project.”

This Vincent Matherne Reef is the sixth reef of its kind built by CCA in Lake Pontchartrain in recent years.  The first two Lake Pontchartrain reefs, the South Shore Reef and the Kim and Dudley Vandenborre reefs, were constructed using recycled materials from the I-10 Twin Spans damaged in Hurricane Katrina. Those were built in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The St. Tammany Fishing Pier Reef, built in the spring of 2013, was the third by CCA and LDWF using the same recycled materials. The Laketown Reef was constructed in 2014 adjacent to the Williams Boulevard Fishing Pier, using 2,000 tons of crushed limestone. The West End Reef was built in 2016 using a combination of limestone and crushed concrete.

St. John Parish Councilman Michael Wright said he was so pleased to see this project take place in his parish.

“When local CCA members came to us two years ago to propose this idea, we saw it as a great opportunity for St. John Parish,” said Wright. “Frenier Landing is a great spot, and we hope this new fishing opportunity so close to the landing will bring even more anglers to the area. Special thanks to Shell, Wildlife and Fisheries and CCA River Parishes for making this happen.”

Overall, this is the 21st reef project completed by CCA Louisiana in recent years. All past CCA projects have proven to provide exceptional fish habitat, and have become popular amongst recreational anglers. 

Funding for the project was provided through CCA’s Building Conservation Trust, Shell, LDWF‘s Artificial Reef Development Fund, as well as in-kind donations and services from Pontchartrain Materials. Continued support of CCA’s habitat program is provided by the Paul Candies Family.

LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet applauded all the project partners on what was accomplished.

“This project is a great example of public, private, and governmental agencies working together in order to enhance recreational fishing opportunities in coastal Louisiana. The department values these partnerships,” Montoucet said.

CCA Louisiana CEO David Cresson echoed the Secretary’s statement by saying these projects simply could not happen without support from project partners like Shell, BCT and LDWF.

“CCA made an important decision a few years ago to make habitat creation a core focus of our organization by creating the Building Conservation Trust,” said Cresson. “When we did, Shell immediately stepped up to the plate with their commitment. In doing so, CCA can now leverage local charitable dollars against matching funds like BCT and LDWF’s Artificial Reef Development Fund, meaning donors to CCA are getting two to three times the value for their donation. The result is projects like this one.”

Kevin Simpson from Shell says the partnership is directly in line with Shell’s commitment to Louisiana.

“Shell is proud to once again partner with CCA and the Building Conservation Trust on a great project to continue our commitment to protecting and improving our coast,” said Simpson. “We have been in business in Louisiana for 100 years, and every part of our business is represented here - meaning that Shell and our people are here to stay, so our connection to the community and our shared needs could not be stronger.”

Construction of the Vincent Matherne Reef is expected to take less than a week. Upon completion, CCA will send out GPS coordinates so that the site can be located by anglers. That information will also be available at ccalouisiana.com.