A global automotive parts manufacturer and the state’s wildlife management agency recently combined resources with the help of two local students to construct fisheries habitat on Cherokee Reservoir, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
JTEKT North America, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of automotive steering systems which has a plant in Morristown, Tn. recently made a monetary donation to the TWRA for management of the state’s wildlife resources. JTEKT Environmental Specialist Priscilla Maynard coordinated with TWRA Reservoirs Biologist John Hammonds in deciding that the money would be used to fund an experimental artificial fisheries habitat program on Cherokee Lake.
Russell Young, a TWRA Fisheries Habitat technician, located some plastic shipping pallets at Advanced Waste Management Co. in Newport. The agency purchased the pallets with the money donated by JTEKT and designed a structure that would be suitable for creating fish attractors. Then, through the TWRA’s volunteer program, two Hamblen County students - Austin Heatherly from East Ridge Middle School and Lucas Poe from Morristown West High School - assisted TWRA fisheries personnel in assembling the structures. The newly-constructed fish attractors were then placed along the lake-bottom of Cherokee Reservoir near Kidwell’s Ridge Access Area.
The TWRA annually places recycled Christmas trees on the lake-bottoms of east Tennessee’s reservoirs during the winter drawdown period, however longevity has been an issue as the trees deteriorate within a few years. Mr. Hammonds and Mr. Young are experimenting with the artificial fish attractors in hopes that they will outlast organic structures. Mr. Young said, “There are artificial structures made of corrugated pipe in this same that are over 15 years old.” According to Mr. Hammonds, part of the experiment also includes placing natural structures alone, artificial structures alone, and a combination of the two. Fisheries biologists will then return to the fish attractors after the lake levels rise and the water settles. Fish samples, by way of electrofishing, will be taken from each fish attractor to determine what species are present and if they prefer one structure over the other. Biologists can then gear their program to more efficient fish management.
The TWRA is grateful for the funding and support provided by JTEKT and for the volunteer support it receives from residents throughout the state. TWRA and JTEKT also hope to form a long-term relationship for similar projects in the future.