Lake associations team up with Alabama Power to help fisheries in area lakes

Lake associations team up with Alabama Power to help fisheries in area lakes
Members of the Neely Henry Lake Association sink new fish habitat made from concrete and PVC pipe into the lake. It's expected to last many years longer than traditional wooden habitat. (Allison Westlake/Alabama NewsCenter)

For the Neely Henry Lake Association (NHLA) and Alabama Power environmental teams, innovation is making an impact on creating fish habitats in Lake Neely Henry.

NHLA is one of the many organizations that Alabama Power has partnered with over the years to provide fish habitats on our lakes and rivers.

“We have been building fish habitat enhancements for over 20 years now,“ said Mike Clelland, Environmental Affairs specialist for Alabama Power. “An important part of this project is that we have an opportunity to partner with lake association groups, high school fishing teams, students and people in the community all across Alabama.”

Clelland manages the Fish Habitat Program as well as the Renew Our Rivers cleanups and has already coordinated 11 fish habitat enhancement projects on Alabama Power lakes this year. He works with various organizations to collect or build fish attractors and identify key spots on Neely Henry to distribute the devices.

Prize catch: Lake Neely Henry gets long-lasting fish habitat from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

For the Neely Henry project, the NHLA wanted to try a new fish attractor. In early April, volunteers gathered to create devices out of cement and PVC pipe. Microorganisms attach to the devices, attracting baitfish that larger fish, such as bass and crappie, will feed on.

“Previously, the habitat we used were a wooden habitat, like the Christmas trees,” said Gene Phifer, president of NHLA and founder of Renew Our Rivers. “We have had this type of habitat for 20 years or so, or maybe longer. The wooden habitat breaks down in a three- to five-year period, and we want to put something that is more permanent or longer lasting.”

On April 20, teams of NHLA volunteers and Alabama Power environmental team members led by Clelland dropped the latest fish habitats in key locations across the lake.

“We understand the value in our reservoir, and NHLA is out here working with Alabama Power and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” said Phifer. “We all understand the value of the reservoir to this area for the environmental and aesthetic value and also that value as a fishery, and we are trying to enhance the fishery part.”

Lake associations statewide pitch in to help Alabama Power enhance the ecosystem of its lakes and rivers.

“The wooden debris that was in the river system has broken down over the years. We are trying to supplement that with long-lasting new structure to help the fishery, help people enjoy the lake more and help people who want to fish on the lake,” Phifer said.

 

The NHLA effort was one of 11 fish habitat projects that have been implemented in 2017.

Clelland, along with Josh Yerby, the Environmental Affairs specialist who manages the aquatic plant program, kicked off the year at Lake Jordan. With members of the Lake Jordan Home Owner and Boat Owners Association, Yerby and Clelland bundled and dropped 150 Christmas trees in 10 strategic locations in February.

The choice to begin with Lake Jordan was easy. “We chose to get started here because this group is so eager to help and be involved in habitat enhancement,” Clelland said at the Christmas tree drop.

Other fish habitat enhancements have been conducted on Smith, Logan Martin and Martin lakes, with another one coming up this summer on Weiss.

Learn more about Alabama Power’s commitment to stewardship as well as the fish habitat enhancement program at http://www.alabamapower.com/our-company/the-environment/stewardship.html.

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