Exploring the Legacy of Memorial Reefs

This week, we learn how the end of a life means the beginning of new life through memorial reefs. The Chasin’ The Sun crew follows along as the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) deploys living legacies in the Gulf of Mexico.

Memorial reefs allow families to construct, personalize and name a reef for their loved one, creating a unique ecosystem and permanent environment for marine life. “Without artificial reefs, we wouldn’t have much of a fishery here because most of the Gulf of Mexico is nothing but flat sand bottom,” says MBARA President Bob Cox. Reefs provide hard substrate that becomes habitat for coral, sea fans and other creatures. Within days after deployment, fish ranging from tiny shrimp to large game species begin calling on the site. Anglers soon follow.

Also, we revisit the day when Capt. Justin Leake and Capt. Travis Holeman enjoyed a beautiful but challenging session chasing redfish.

Our hosts head east from the St. Andrews Pass along the pristine, undeveloped coastline of Tyndall Air Force Base. On the way, they can’t resist stopping above an artificial reef to start a fight with some amberjacks. But the amberjack fishing eventually gets overshadowed by the thrill of watching F-22 Raptor jets fly training missions over the gulf in a “red, white and blue meets emerald green water” display that’s unique to the area.

Later, the anglers target a spot where Justin found schooling redfish a day earlier and hope to cash in on some guaranteed action, but the fish have other ideas due to the many factors that affect their behavior. Just when it seems the redfish have no intention of cooperating, Holeman and Leake crack the code and experience an epic end to a beautiful day on the water.