MacDill Air Force Base is best known as the home of two of the U.S. military’s most important headquarters, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.

But to the folks stationed at or visiting the Tampa, Florida, installation, MacDill is also a paradise for fishing enthusiasts, with a marina, miles of shoreline and several freshwater ponds.

So, just as the base’s Eisenhower-era KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling fleet requires upkeep, so too do the waterways. To that end, last week, 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 on base, according to MacDill’s homepage.

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

The move comes as part of a greater effort to preserve and protect “delicate ecosystems” all over MacDill.

“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.”

The channel catfish, meanwhile, took a circuitous route to MacDill. The hatchery spawns various fish on-site, according to the homepage, but it also has an ongoing partnership with the state of Florida specifically for channel catfish.

The fish stocked at MacDill are initially spawned at 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. Before releasing the fish into the waters at MacDill, hatchery personnel were responsible for keeping the water temperature in the tank truck comfortable for the new habitants.

After mitigating land erosion and overgrown aquatic vegetation, personnel have worked to increase the fish population, “which gives the MacDill community more opportunity to land a big one,” the MacDill homepage says.

Fishing is just one of many recreational opportunities at MacDill, which also boasts two golf courses, a long running track along the water and rental boats.

“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 told MacDill officials. “I strongly encourage everyone to get outdoors and find an activity to participate in that feels right for them!”

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.

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