August 08, 2021
Today, Bay County deployed two new artificial reefs approximately 11-12 nautical miles southwest of St. Andrew’s Bay Pass off Panama City Beach using spools donated by Oceaneering International.
“Panama City Beach is known as the Wreck Diving Capital of the South and these new artificial reefs will be another great feature for both fishermen and divers,” says Visit Panama City Beach President and CEO Dan Rowe. “The history of diving in Panama City Beach is deep with over 50 artificial reefs, making the destination the second-most visited dive location in Florida.”
There are three more spools scheduled for deployment over the next three to four weeks, for a total of five new artificial reefs. The five spools, ranging from 22 feet and 40 tons to 35 feet and 60 tons, will be sunk 100 feet below the surface in federal waters. Within a few days, these five artificial reefs will be brimming with living marine organisms, creating an ecosystem and habitat for fish, crabs and more for divers and fishermen to enjoy.
Bay County Commissioner Bill Dozier helped orchestrate the project after a friend from Oceaneering International proposed the mutually beneficial way to dispose of the reels that would help the company and the county.
“It’s exciting because this allows us to move the county’s reef program forward,” says Dozier. “These will be fantastic reefs – fishermen love them because of the way they’re designed and we’re hoping that this will be an ongoing partnership moving forward.”
The reels are being deployed through a partnership with multiple organizations and volunteers including the Bay County Tourist Development Council, Bay County Board of County Commissioners, Oceaneering International, UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension Bay County, Port Panama City, Mar-K Towing and Panama City Diving. Teamworks Welding and Fabrication of Panama City is also a key contractor for this project. Guidance and support for the deployment are being provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
“Initially, baitfish and opportunistic predatory fish like barracuda will inhabit the reefs,” says Scott Jackson, County Extension Director and Sea Grant Extension Agent. “This is typically followed by a parade of prized reef fish such as grouper and snapper. Eventually, given the size and complexity of the reels, Goliath Grouper should also be expected as residents.”
This event will be chronicled in an upcoming episode of the destination’s coastal fishing and lifestyle television show, “Chasin’ The Sun.” The deployment was documented from several angles, including an on-deck camera, underwater cameras attached to the spools, a deep-sea drone and a sky drone.
The exact GPS coordinates of the artificial reefs include:
- Site 1 30 01.581, -85 55.561 (DD MM.MMM)
- Future coordinates will be available after deployment.