Fish, like people, seem to abhor monotony. Seeing the same old, same old day after day must be as boring to a fish as it is to a person. Perhaps that is why so many of the Gulf of Mexico’s top sport fish are caught off reefs, ledges, shipwrecks and underwater structure.
Most of the bottom of the Gulf is a barren, sandy desert without much in the way of features, and it seems fish prefer anything that will break that up. Despite hosting the world’s third largest natural reef system and the largest number of shipwrecks of anywhere on earth, many of Florida’s Gulf Coastal counties and communities spend heavily of artificial reef programs, as saltwater angling tourism revenue is a vital part of the economy along the coast.
Collier County is one place in Florida that takes its artificial reef creation seriously. Home to more than 18,000 tons of artificial reefs in place, the waters off of Naples are some of the most productive sport fishing destinations in all of the Gulf of Mexico. The reefs increase and enhance the amount of habitat for many species, like Grouper, Red Snapper, Pompano, Wahoo and Cobia. These reefs improve fishing, both commercial and recreational, and also provide opportunities for divers out looking to explore these amazing underwater habitats.
Funding for the placement of artificial reef systems often comes from grants and local communities themselves. Naples, in Collier County, is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, and has the second highest proportion of millionaires per capita in America. Maybe that’s why off of Naples some of these man-made reef ecosystems are getting more creative. In most areas, these underwater fish hotspots are constructed from concrete balls, slabs, light poles and other materials that are heavy and will last for decades without polluting the seafloor environment. Recently, a giant artificial reef in the shape of a sea turtle was plunged into the waters offshore.
Once a new reef system is in place it takes very little time before the fish will find it. As marine organisms attach to the reef structure, they attract small crustaceans and fish, which in turn attract the big sport fish anglers come to Florida for. The easiest way for tourists to get to the reefs is to hire a chartered fishing guide. Experienced Captains and operators will know about all the popular reefs located on charts, and they will have several “secret” reef spots for when the more well-known areas become overcrowded.
Even the beautiful beaches of Florida can get boring. Mile after mile of sunbathers and sand, the scenery can all start to look the same, even to tourists. If you find yourself suffering from beach burnout, then do what the fish are doing. Go hang out at the reef where all the action is!