Some History of the Lee County Florida’s Artificial Reef Program.
The Lee Country Artificial Reef system extends from the county line at Naples to Charlotte County Line to the North, including Captiva Island, Sanibel Island Gulf waters.
I was instrumental in helping to get the Edison Bridge Reef constructed and a couple of other existing ones augmented. It was originally going to be dumped unceremoniously in the Caloosahatchee River to be swallowed up by the mud bottom.
At the time as Vice President of the Sanibel Fishing Club, and seeing the opportunity to have a tremendous resource, along with the then President Charles Sobczak, we initiated, with other groups interested, meetings with a very capable Marine Resources Division of Lee County, now the Environmental Sciences.
Artificial Reef Construction Considerations
The discussions were about the things typically associated with the construction of an artificial reef site in Florida. Most important was the funding to barge the material a significant distance off the coast. Next comes permitting required and the issues surrounding that challenge. There are some specific requirements around artificial reef construction. Considerations such as min depth requirements for boat navigation, how stable or clean is the material, it may not leach out chemicals into the surrounding waters.
In addition, the material must be placed on “hard” bottom, free of muck. This prevents what would have happened if placed in the river. Eventually, it would silt over and serve only a “disposal” option vs the dual purpose of disposal and habitat creation.
Artificial Reef construction has had its detractors over time. The arguments include, the fish will be concentrated and make them easier to catch. Or, smaller fish will become predators for larger fish. Goliaths Grouper particularly like the high profile structure piles. Fishermen often get their catch snatched on the way up by Goliaths Grouper, point to these arguments as a reason not to build artificial reefs.
After many years of studying the reefs, its apparent that the reefs not only concentrate fish where there were few but also result in spawning aggregations of all sorts of marine life. From Soft Corals and Sponges to urchins, crabs and all sorts of finfish.
The designs of the reefs provided for areas for smaller fish to hide from larger fish, much the same way as our natural ledges offer protection from predators. The hard clean substrate of concrete pilings makes an excellent attachment base for the corals, sponges and sea fans.
As for the age-old Fisherman’s argument that goliaths are eating all the fish on these structures, this has been proven to not be true. Years of stomach surveys by captured Goliaths have shown that their diet consists primarily of crabs, urchins, and other bottom dwellers. Its true Goliaths cannot resist a struggling fish being pulled up by and angler, much the same behavior sharks in that regard.
Book an Offshore Charter to one of the local Reefs or Wrecks or numerous local ledges and hard bottom areas for Grouper Snapper, Mackerel, Bonita, Cobia, and More.