BEACH HAVEN - Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association president Captain John Lewis has announced that the reef building campaign by the Association’s Junior Mates Program is close to showing tangible results.

Lewis said that the group’s goal to raise $100,000 to begin reef replenishment has been reached thanks to the efforts of the mates, local community involvement, and matching funds from the Ann E. Clark Foundation and the Sport Fishing Fund.

The state of New Jersey has constructed a string of artificial reefs off the coast to provide habitat for various species of fish and a place for registered anglers to fish. Over time the materials placed on the reefs sink in the sand and do not provide the needed structure. As a result, new materials are needed to supplement the original materials.

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Slated for deployment on the Little Egg Reef are a 140-foot barge, a 54-foot crew boat, and a 45-foot tugboat. Lewis said that the exact date for the deployment of the three vessels is not set, but he expects it to be in the very near future. The two smaller boats will be on the barge when it is sunk and then re-positioned in the water for maximum effect.

Helping to make the efforts possible immediately was the generous donation of $50,000 from the receipts of the recent Sea Shell Striped Bass Derby in Beach Haven. Lewis had special words of praise for Sea Shell owner Tom Hughes. “Tom has been especially helpful in our efforts, and we owe him a giant thanks for all he has done.”

Although he is excited about the initial deployment on the reefs, Lewis noted that the work is far from over. “This is just the first step in a long-term project for funding for the reefs off Long Beach Island. We look on this as an investment in the future for the young men and women in our mates’ program.”

Although the BHCFA has raised the necessary funds for the project, Lewis noted that officials from the state and Stockton University will be determining the exact placement of the first three vessels on the Little Egg Reef.

Lewis had special words of praise for the Junior Mates who have been so active in the project. “Kids today take a beating for various reasons. Our kids have adopted a ’can-do’ approach and have worked their tails off to implement their ideas and dreams.”

The BHCFA continues to work to continue the reef work as it is an ongoing program. Lewis says the Association is accepting donations and stressed that the reefs are not only good for the environment and anglers but also for local businesses who benefit from fishing and related tourism. Additional information on the project can be obtained by contacting Lewis at captjohn22@comcast.net