Reel Reef Collaboration
“Chasin’ The Sun” documents the extraordinary team effort required to deploy an artificial reef off the coast of Panama City Beach using discarded industrial materials.
Reefs are home to snapper, grouper and other species prized by seafood lovers so it’s no wonder heading offshore is perhaps the most popular pursuit for local and visiting anglers. While there are hundreds of reefs off the coast, only a small number are naturally-occurring limestone reefs.
Artificial reefs fill in the gaps and provide habitat for corals, baitfish and the larger species that prey upon them, thus creating new angling opportunities. Suitable materials include concrete, retired ships or aircraft, and steel bridge spans. “We’re looking for materials that are durable and have a life expectancy of more than 50 years,” says Scott Jackson, Bay County Extension Director and head of the deployment team.
Through a partnership of government agencies, contractors and fabricators, crews deployed huge cable reels donated by Oceaneering International in separate locations approximately 12 miles offshore. The five spools, ranging from 22-35 feet in diameter and weighing 40-60 tons, are in water approximate 100 feet deep. Jackson says it will take up to five years for the reef to fully mature.
Noted marine wildlife artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey says the cable spools will help grow the habitat. “That’s good structure for a lot of different species of fish,” says Dr. Harvey. “The accumulation of new life that an artificial reef causes is measurable.”
Also in this episode, Capt. Justin Leake joins a group of winter visitors on an early season charter trip to some of the offshore reefs already in place.