Belle Isle’s South Fishing Pier Attracts Fish and Fishermen Once Again

Project Summary: Restoring a fishing pier in Detroit has provided diverse habitat for fish to rest in, making the area suitable for fish and fishermen alike.

Project name: Restoration of Belle Isle Park’s South Fishing Pier

Location: Belle Isle, Detroit, Mich.

The rocky shoal that blocks wave energy from reaching and eroding the shore of Bell Isle is installed. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Detroit River.

The rocky shoal that blocks wave energy from reaching and eroding the shore of Bell Isle is installed. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Detroit River.

Description: The Detroit River is listed as an Area of Concern—one of the most degraded waters in the Great Lakes region—due to historic and ongoing pollution from industry, urban development, shipping, and sewage spills. Impairments identified on the river include loss of fish and wildlife habitat, degradation of fish and wildlife populations, beach closings, and restrictions on drinking water consumption. Restoration projects underway and completed on Belle Isle—a Detroit-owned public park, now cared for by the state of Michigan—have focused on fish and wildlife habitat restoration. In 2004 the city of Detroit installed fish spawning reefs underwater just off the southeastern shore of Belle Isle.  Fish need a reef to spawn on, but fry fish need wetland areas or shallow water habitat to hide in while they grow, so in 2011 more sheltered habitats were created for fish to succeed. Almost three acres of protected coastal wetland was installed along the island adjacent to the pier, providing a nearby area for small fish to take shelter and find food. The south fishing pier also had breakwaters installed to slow the current, allowing small fish to make their way to safety and providing a more varied habitat for larger fish. The south fishing pier allows fish to rest, but it also is an ideal spot for fisherman to try their luck. In other areas, the Detroit River currents are too swift to catch many fish.

An aerial view of the south fishing pier. The various shoals and the changes of depth in water are all visible in this photograph. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Detroit River.

An aerial view of the south fishing pier. The various shoals and the changes of depth in water are all visible in this photograph. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Detroit River.

Approximate cost of the project: $557,522; with $528,289 from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and $29,233 in matching funds

Resource challenges addressed: Little or no fish habitat, lack of variety in river, eroding banks, difficult fishing conditions

Key partners (public and private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Friends of the Detroit River, City of Detroit Recreation Department, Environmental Consulting and Technology Inc., SmithGroupJJR

Types of jobs created: Data gathering, fish monitors, volunteers, metro area school groups, heavy equipment operators, general laborers

Results and accomplishments: The south fishing pier is now surrounded by low, rocky outcroppings designed to slow the flow of water. Between the main shoal and the shore, the depth of the river has been varied to attract various types of fish. The native limestone used to construct the shoals provides an excellent habitat for small fish to hide in. Native plants, including partially submergible species, were planted to further enhance the habitat. Walleye, small mouth bass, channel catfish, white bass, largemouth bass, and even northern pike can now be caught off of the south fishing pier.

Website: http://www.detroitriver.org/fdr-pdf/GLRI/b_i_p_r.pdf

Originally published on: July 30, 2014

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