Two freshwater artificial reef structures were constructed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) in Vernon Lake on Thursday.

“We are trying to add artificial habitat mainly where there isn’t any in this lake,” LDWF Biologist Manager Sean Kinney. “The lake is supposed to be down for roughly a year because of the compromise on the dam from Hurricane Harvey,” Kinney said. “So we are going to keep putting them in until we run out of pipe.”

This project on the exposed bottom of Vernon Lake has increased the LDWF freshwater artificial reef total to 70 on 15 water bodies across the state.

The Entergy Office at Fort Polk was going to throw away the PVC pipe now being used to create these fish habitats. “Instead of putting it in a landfill they donated it to us,” Kinney said.

The many stumps jutting up from the lake bottom provide habitat for fish but over time they will decay. LDWF is augmenting that with this plastic pipe which will theoretically last forever.

The black pipes make arc shapes when positioned in the ground. They are held in place temporarily by bamboo and then concrete is poured into the holes to give them a permanent base.  

“We are trying to use pipe in the most efficient matter to create the most surface area for something that is fish friendly and hook friendly,” Kinney said.

The artificial reef at Vernon Lake will provide additional habitat for juvenile fish and offer anglers increased fishing opportunity.

There are nearly 30 of these artificial reefs in Toledo Bend. The LDWF is planning a dive this summer to try to quantify the number and species of fish living in them.

Building these habitats began around 2003 with plastic palettes donated by a feed mill. “We just evolved into building bigger reefs,” Kinney said.

Right now the fish of Vernon Lake are congregated in a smaller area of remaining water. “When it comes back up they’ll be spawning,” Kinney said. “This (water drawdown) is one of the best things that could happen to this lake.”

Terrestrial growth will generate around the edges of the current water area and when it comes back up that growth will provide nutrients in the lake.