Union Members Build 85 Fish Habitats for Duck River Reservoir
by Kurt Beckstrom
In partnership with Major League Fishing’s Fisheries Management Division (MLF-FMD), Mercury Marine and MossBack Fish Habitat, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and its volunteer work force recently completed a fish habitat enhancement project on the 640-acre Duck River Reservoir in Cullman, Alabama.
Six union members, representing Iron Workers Local 92, UA Local 91 Plumbers, Steamfitters and HVAC Technicians, and the Alabama AFL-CIO donated nearly 40 hours of labor (valued at over $2,000) on May 11 to assemble 85 artificial fish habitat structures with materials provided by Mercury Marine and MossBack.
“It is an honor to be given the opportunity to connect our union customers with the USA to partner on conservation projects like this one,” said Tori Letson, vice-president and business development officer at the Bank of Labor in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Letson was instrumental in recruiting and organizing the volunteer work force for the Duck River project.
“Union men and women understand the importance of giving back to their communities and never hesitate to fulfill the call to volunteer their time, resources and skills. Not only do these projects enhance wildlife habitats across the country, but they give union members the opportunity to shine through their selfless actions using their highly honed skills,” Letson added.
The reservoir’s dual purpose is to provide a supplemental water supply for the city and surrounding area as well as recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors, according to Cullman Utilities Board Reservoir Manager Tim Scott.
“When designing the lake, we had to strike a balance between water quality and recreation,” added Dale Greer, director of the city’s Economic Development Agency. “During the construction phase, the city put in 25 miles of walking/biking trails through the buffer zone that surrounds and protects the lake as well as two boat launch ramps and an accessible fishing pier. At the same time, we removed brush and debris that would soon decompose and reduce water purity from shallow areas in the lake itself.”
MLF-FMD drew upon its partnership, formed in 2021, with the USA and proposed the installation of artificial habitat in the shallows and elsewhere to provide more places for the lake’s baitfish and panfish to shelter and feed.
“We used various types of products made by MossBack,” said fisheries biologist and MLF-FMD director Steven Bardin. “Some are designed to mimic a sunken Christmas tree and others resemble a natural tree root wad,” he said. “Both are fairly dense and meant to provide shelter for forage species.”
The third type, called conservation cubes, serve as fish attractors and are designed to enhance the angling experience of fishermen targeting the lake’s crappies, bluegills, largemouth bass and channel catfish, he added.
“Duck River is a good fishery today,” said Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, “and the fish habitat being provided as a result of this new partnership will transform a good fishing lake into a great fishing experience for those who come here.
“I want to thank MLF, Mercury Marine, MossBack Fish Habitat and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for working with the city, as well as Lowe’s Home Improvement for providing the cinder blocks that secure the habitats in place,” Jacobs added. “Our focus is on providing drinking water, and it is nice to have expert fishermen, biologists, fish habitat specialists and installers who are knowledgeable about improving fishing while also protecting water quality. That is a win for all of us.”
According to Bart Maddox, Iron Workers Local 92 business manager/financial secretary-treasurer who has organized volunteers for four USA Work Boots on the Ground conservation projects to date, many Local 92 members are avid anglers and live in or around Cullman.
“Projects like this help show the public that union members are everyday people within the community. We believe in working good jobs with good wages and benefits—that’s our hope for every American—and we also believe in serving our communities and giving people the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.”