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The program utilizes portions of the platforms to remain in place, underwater, where they continue to serve as vital marine habitat.


program for the energy compa- nies, the state, fishermen and, of course, the fish. Rather than completely dismantling and removing this vital habitat, the program utilizes portions of the platforms to remain in place, underwater, where they continue to serve as vital marine habitat. The energy companies save on the cost of dismantling and bringing the rigs to shore, and a portion of their savings is dedi- cated to the reefs program. This subsequently led to expansion of the artificial reefs program to develop suitable, man-made, habitat in the inshore areas of the state. The program had sev- eral hurdles to clear, consider- ing the shallow water and interactions from various user groups that ply the water bot- toms, like shrimpers, crabbers and oystermen. Through a well-organized program and cooperation from many interested parties, concerns such as the reefs being navigation hazards and impedi- ments to commercial fishing have been widely overcome. Building reefs in inshore water is not taken lightly and a vigorous permitting process has devel- oped to select sites with minimum impact and maximum benefit. There are now 30 inshore reefs that have been placed in conjunction with partner- ships between the Louisiana Depart - ment of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), various energy companies and non- governmental agencies such as CCA and many others. The good news is that more reefs are on the way.


THE PICKETS “The Pickets” was an assemblage of


inshore petroleum structures and asso- ciated pilings that had been attracting


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fish and anglers for decades. Then, ominous news spread through the Louisiana fishing communities of Dularge, Dulac and Cocodrie that the Pickets were no longer in production and, according to federal regulations, all of the associated rigs, pilings and acces- sories had to be removed. No matter that the structures, although artificial, had developed into prime habitat for a variety of inshore fish and the recre- ational anglers that pursue them. The water at the location was only


about 10 feet deep and much too shal- low to allow any of the platform struc-


reef where the platforms once stood. Simply spreading rock willy-nilly at the site may have proved somewhat beneficial, but the plan was to go above and beyond. Water bottom surveys revealed several scour holes that were created through years of current fun- neling through and around the plat- form. There was no doubt that those holes contributed to the productivity of the Pickets as a fish attractor. When the reef was constructed, it was placed as three separate reefs con- sisting of 14,000 pounds of 4-inch crushed limestone. The reefs were placed with the goal of protect- ing and stabilizing the scoured areas and replacing the re - moved habitat. The placement of the reefs was completed in October 2014. With the comforting visual impact of the Pickets gone, it was slightly depressing to see only three lonely buoys mark- ing reefs at the location. Area fishermen were not optimistic that good fishing would ever return. Capt. Travis Miller, of Millertime Fishing Charters, was one of those in the pes- simists’ camp. “There was a collective sad- ness when the Pickets were removed and I had my doubts that it would ever produce fish again,” Miller said. As winter turned to spring, some anglers just had to give the old Pickets


Water bottom surveys revealed several scour holes that were created through years of current funneling


through and around the platform.


tures or pilings to remain. Complete removal seemed a certain death knell to the fantastic fishing known there for generations. However, through the work of


CCA’s Building Conservation Trust, Fieldwood Energy, Apache Corpor - ation and LDWF, plans were quickly put in place to lay a crushed limestone


www.joincca.org


location a shot. “As early as April, fish were being caught at the Pickets reef site and although there was no urgent effort to spread the news, word quickly got around. Fishermen can keep a secret; it’s just the people they tell that can’t.” Without the constraints of the


physical, above-water structure, Miller notes that more boats can actually fish the area now.


“That’s a good thing, because many days it was like a parking lot,” he said, shocked that the area had produced so quickly. “We found lots of speckled trout, redfish, and surprisingly, many white trout. The Pickets was always a speck hotspot, but we never caught any white trout, even when the plat- form was there.” Great fishing held up through normal summer patterns and the trout bite was good until the water warmed in August. “We’re very thankful that the reef was built to replace the habitat lost when the Pickets was removed,”


TIDE


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