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Grab your fishing rods: thousands of catfish stocked at MacDill AFB

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren Cobin
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Personnel from the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Welaka National Fish Hatchery to release approximately 3,000 channel catfish into several lakes and ponds at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 1, 2021.

The fish were stocked to enhance recreational opportunities for base residents and visitors.

 “Fishing is a long-time hobby for me, it facilitates a connection between nature and the resources that I work hard to protect,” said Andrew Lykens, the 6th CES Natural and Cultural Resources manager.

MacDill’s 6th CES has been a part of a combined effort to preserve and protect delicate ecosystems around the base.

“We are pulling a couple of missions together here for the 6th Air Refueling Wing,” said Kevin Kish, the 6th CES Installation Management flight chief. “We have the flying mission going on overhead, and here, on the ground we are bringing in some natural resources as part of the [squadron’s] contribution to our local environment.”

Ken Blick, the Welaka National Fish Hatchery project leader, and Jorge Buening, lead fish biologist, are passionate outdoorsmen with a great sense of care and attention to detail for their work.

The team explained that the hatchery spawns various fish on-site, but has an ongoing partnership with the state of Florida specifically for channel catfish.

The channel catfish stocked at MacDill are initially spawned from Richloam State Fish Hatchery, north of Tampa, then transported to the Welaka Hatchery in Welaka, Florida, where they are raised for nearly a year until they reach a catchable size.

The process of releasing fish can be tedious, but hatchery personnel are experienced in ensuring the health and welfare of the fish by monitoring factors like water temperature and chemistry.

In the past, these groups have battled with various other environmental elements such as land erosion and overgrown aquatic vegetation. Since becoming more accessible, they have worked to increase the fish population, which gives the MacDill community more opportunity to land a big one.  

According to Kish, it is important for the 6th CES to make as many natural resources available to the Airmen who contribute to the mission.

“We’re driving hard every day,” Kish emphasized. “It is important for us to get some time outside and connect with one another, whether its family or our coworkers.”

Fishing is just one of many recreational opportunities available for base residents to enjoy the outdoors.

“There’s a lot of research supporting the mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors, whether fishing, hiking, biking, or just hanging out with family and friends,” Lykens said. “I strongly encourage everyone to get outdoors and find an activity to participate in that feels right for them!”

More information on MacDill recreation can be found at https://macdillfss.com/.