CCA Louisiana and Conservation Partners expand Big Jack’s Reef in Calcasieu Lake

Shell Oil, Building Conservation Trust and LDWF work together to create critical new habitat in Big Lake

On Thursday, Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana, Shell Oil, Building Conservation Trust (CCA’s National Habitat Program), the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and DLS Energy began construction on an expansion to “Big Jack’s Reef” in Calcasieu Lake.

This is the first enhancement to the original Big Jack’s Reef, constructed by CCA and conservation partners in 2017 in memory of Lake Charles conservation legend Jack Lawton, Sr. The original project created roughly 6 acres of reef habitat in southern Calcasieu Lake that has become a popular hot spot for local anglers. The expansion project will consist of another 6,000 tons of “softball sized to football sized” limestone or recycled concrete spread over 5 to 6 acres adjacent to the original reef.

CCA Louisiana President John Walther was on site Thursday to view the construction.

“Through this expansion, CCA and our partners are helping to build on Mr. Lawton’s legacy of conservation leadership,” said Walther. “Something tells me Big Jack is looking down on our work today with a smile on his face.”

Enhancement of this reef will support a variety of marine life, including oysters, crustaceans and small baitfish. These species serve as forage to sportfish like redfish, speckled trout, flounder and others, making this enhanced habitat a perfect spot for Louisiana anglers. The new, larger reef footprint will provide additional opportunity for anglers to enjoy. The reef’s location in southern Calcasieu Lake make it of particular significance considering the recent loss of critical oyster reef habitat in the area.

“Big Lake has seen it’s oyster reefs decimated over the past twenty years, especially in this area, “ said CCA Louisiana CEO David Cresson. “In only two years, the original Big Jack’s reef has proved to be great habitat for oysters, crustaceans and other critical marine life. The work we are doing here today will only make it bigger and better, and it should be a great place to go fishing.”

This project marks the fifth reef project completed by CCA in Calcasieu Lake. In 2007, CCA built Turner’s Bay Reef, followed by the Brad Vincent Reef in 2012. In 2017, CCA completed the original “Big Jack’s Reef” in southern Big Lake, and in 2018, CCA completed an expansion to the Vincent Reef. In total, CCA has constructed 24 artificial reefs across Louisiana in recent years, representing an investment of more than $10 million in marine habitat.

Funding for the project has been provided through CCA’s Building Conservation Trust, Shell Oil and from funds made available in Early Restoration and through the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Consent Decree to restore for recreational losses that occurred in Louisiana as part of the DWH Oil Spill. In-kind materials and services have been provided by DLS Energy and Road Rock Recycling. CCA would also like to thank the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, who provided on-site support on Thursday.

John Fell, owner of Road Rock Recycling Company, was also at the project site Thursday.

“As a business owner and an outdoorsman who loves our coast, it is very satisfying to see this work taking place here today,” said Fell. “I am proud to contribute to this project and to CCA’s work. During a time when Louisiana is losing so much of our coast, it feels good to be part of a program that is actually out building new habitat.”

Construction on the reef expansion should take 7 to 10 days to complete. Upon completion, CCA will publish the GPS coordinates for the expanded reef site.

View the video below from Big Jack’s Artificial Reef Enhancement.