Fishing Reefs Take about a Year to Develop
With the winter months typically slow for Destin's charter boat captains, some of them use this time of year to prepare for future fishing seasons.
They deploy artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico in the hopes that they'll develop into a location that will attract fish.
"It's just good business," said Kelly Windes, captain of the charter boat Sunrise. On Tuesday, he took a boat-load full of reefs into the Gulf.
Windes, a long-time charter boat captain, has been deploying his own artificial reefs for several years. In November 2004, he and several other captains teamed up to purchase a barge for the sole purpose of transporting artificial reefs into the Gulf.
Tuesday's trip aboard the Michael Scott was to deploy concrete truck drums some 35-40 miles into the Gulf, Windes said. He figured the slow moving boat would need about four hours to reach the deployment site.
In about a year, Windes said, the reefs would be producing reefs.
When an artificial reef is deployed, its exact coordinates must be reported to Okaloosa County, but those sites are not posted.
For the locations of other reefs, such as those deployed by municipalities, anglers can go online to http://www.co.okaloosa.fl.us/ reefs.html.
Deploying artificial reefs has changed quite a bit in the past several years, said Harold Loeffler, captain of the charter boat Un Reel. In the past, captains dumped old automobiles into the Gulf, he said. Now, with environmentally stringent regulations, reefs must be made of concrete or steel.
The permitting process is now much more involved, Loeffler said.
After Okaloosa County officials inspect the reef 's materials, the person deploying the reef must wait five business days to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to inspect the reef if they choose.
Loeffler received county approval to deploy 20 chicken coops and two 3,500-pound concrete hoppers last week and today is the final day he has to wait to see if the other agencies want to inspect before he deploys. He said the other agencies have never asked to inspect his reefs.
In the past, Loeffler has had to take many trips to deploy his reefs using his boat. Last year, he partnered with the Construction Service Company of Florida in Niceville, which owns the charter boat Mother Lode, to purchase a barge to deploy reefs.
Loeffler estimates it will cost him about $3,000 to deploy his reefs by the time he's finished. That includes purchasing the materials, storing them until he can deploy them, securing the permits, using a crane to place the reefs on the barge, and the cost of fuel to reach the drop site.
Yet the cost and time pays off, Loeffler said.
"I like to have my own private spots," he said. "It helps our customers and it gives us more places to fish."
The Destin captains are not the only ones who are deploying reefs to give anglers more options.
The city of Destin partnered with Valparaiso, Niceville and Okaloosa County in the late 1990s to create an artificial reef program to deploy public reefs. The Destin City Council will vote to approve a bid by Walter Marine to deploy 30 modules for Destin's part in a larger reef project. The city hopes to have their reefs deployed by March, said Lindey Chabot, grants and projects manager for the city.
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News