Story By: Joe Marusak
Photo: Jeff Willhelm – email@example.com
Crews using a track hoe on a barge dumped tons of boulders into Lake Norman on Thursday as the finale to a winter-long effort to create more artificial reefs for fish habitat on the lake’s sandy bottom.
Workers from Troutman-based Lancaster Custom Dock & Lift Systems have plopped a total of about 270 tons of rock this year into the mouth of Little Creek, off Kiser Island Road and Lee Point in Catawba County, and off Brawley School Road in southern Iredell County.
The rocks provide cover for bait fish that lure a variety of bass and other large fish prized by fishermen, said Tim Gestwicki, executive director of the nonprofit North Carolina Wildlife Federation, which conducts the rock dumping.
“We know they’ll be there within 24 hours,” he said. “The fish congregate there like crazy.”
The federation has put boulders into the lake at six sites since 2011 to improve aquatic habitat.
Duke Energy’s Habitat Enhancement Program funds the initiative, which cost about $25,000 to $32,000 this year, Gestwicki said. Proceeds from dock and other fees help pay for the program
On Thursday, rocks were stacked 4-to-12-feet high in depths of at least 28 feet, Gestwicki said.
The rocks, which come from Lake Norman Rock Quarry in Denver, N.C., are placed in water deep enough to not impair boating, he said.
The rocks are a far more permanent solution to establish habitat than the Christmas trees fishermen continue to put into the lake, Gestwicki said. The trees flatten or are moved by currents, providing little or no habitat, he said.
“The best situation is to create a reef,” Gestwicki said.
Thanks to the NCWF for their support and efforts in projects such as this. If you have any questions about these and the many other projects of the NCWF, or would like to assist with future efforts, you may contact Tim Gestwiki for more information.