Net return: Grant supports fishing, education

Published 10:48 pm Monday, March 1, 2010

Fishing at Minooka Park is no longer catch-and-release, thanks in part to a $5,000 reimbursable grant from CAWACO Resource Conservation and Development and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The grant helped improve water quality in the park’s lake through a fertilization program that lends to fish production and growth.

It also funded three 30-gallon commercial fish feeders and three vending-type feeders.

“Since the fertilization and feeding program started, we’ve gone from a strict policy of catch and release to increased creel limits on certain species,” Park Manager Gerald Arrington said. “I don’t think that would have happened without this program.”

Those who fish at Minooka may keep up to five largemouth bass per fisherman or up to 25 bluegill or bream.

Another portion of the grant paid for fishing equipment, including several rod and reel combos that may be checked out by park visitors and turned in at the end of the day. Also funded was a worm bed near the lake.

“When they check out their rod and reel, they can go down to the lake walking trail entrance and dig for bait,” Arrington said.

Education is a primary goal of the project. The grant, called an “education challenge grant,” also funded educational signage explaining each species of fish found in Minooka’s lake. These include the redear sunfish (or Georgia bream), bluegill, largemouth bass and grass carp. The signs can be found on the park’s office deck overlooking the lake. Danny Carter of C&C Trophy in Clanton provided materials for the signage.

Last year, Minooka hosted a one-day Lakeside Learning event during Chilton County YMCA Day Camp. While no similar events are planned for the immediate future, Monday’s grant will expand opportunities for such.

The grant did require a 50-percent match, but Chilton County’s entire part was done through in-kind work.

“All of our 50 percent was through volunteer hours and equipment loaned,” Arrington said.

Drayton Cosby, representing Resource Conservation and Development, thanked the Cooperative Extension and the Alabama Legislature.

“We are not able to fund these great projects without the help of the Extension,” Cosby said.

Schools, nonprofit organizations and local government entities may apply for similar reimbursable grants through March 31.