Skip to main content

Bay County Fishing Opportunities Expanded

Photo Courtesty of Mexico Beach Articial Reef Association.

From FWC "Goin' Coastal," Press Release

The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association, which is one of the most active nonprofit artificial reef organizations in the state, on behalf of the city of Mexico Beach, just completed the oversight and management of a significant expansion to several existing artificial reef sites off Bay County. The old phrase “if you build it, they will come” could not be more applicable, and the cities of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, recreational anglers, charter captains and local businesses will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

On April 6, the most recent deployment, 62 individual reef structures, each weighing more than 3,500 pounds, were added at 19 locations. In a grant to the city to support the project, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) provided $60,000 in federal aid from Sport Fish Restoration Act funds. That grant was matched by $31,600 from Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association. The deployment locations are in state and federal waters, 2.3 to 16.8 nautical miles from the Mexico Beach Channel entrance, ranging in depth from 22 feet in the Bell Shoals Area to 101 feet in the North Site Area.

The deployment of several different types of modules included:

? Tetrahedron-shaped reef modules with limestone sides that make it easier for invertebrates to attach.

? Rectangular box-shaped reefs designed to provide habitat for gag grouper.

? Ecosystem reefs shaped like a layer cake with round concrete and rock discs separated by spacers for juvenile fish habitat.

? A newly designed “hybrid reef” that includes a grouper module and an attached ecosystem reef on top.

Fishers have long understood the value of constructing artificial reefs, and over the past 30 to 40 years a great deal has been learned through trial and error.

In the early days, reef materials included just about anything that was heavy enough to sink and often included tires, household appliances, junk cars and many other less-than-ideal materials. The problem with many of the materials that were used historically is that they were not stable, durable or environmentally friendly. Many were not heavy enough to stay in place. Other materials were not structurally sufficient to withstand ocean currents and saltwater corrosion for lengthy periods of time.

While some of these older materials have been ripped apart and scattered around by storms, it is also likely that some of these materials would not meet today's standards that require removal of all oils, greases, paints, solvents or other chemicals that may be potentially harmful to marine organisms.

Today's reefs, including those deployed recently off Mexico Beach, are constructed of concrete, limestone and heavy-gauge steel, all of which will stay in place and provide excellent marine habitat for decades to come.

Similarly, people have also learned a great deal about selecting appropriate sites for artificial reefs. Permits for reef areas issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to local coastal governments in both state and federal waters require bottom surveys before reef deployment to verify that the areas are free of natural reefs, seagrass habitat, shellfish beds and archaeological resources. This requirement is very important because it prevents artificial reef damage to existing valuable natural habitats.

Taking care to choose the best location also avoids interfering with other uses of the sea floor such as navigational channels, military operational areas, sand borrow areas, traditional shrimp trawling grounds, and underwater pipeline and cable corridors.

Can artificial reefs increase the overall populations of fish over time? I don't think we have an absolute answer on that.

Artificial reefs will never be a replacement for sound fisheries management and regulations to prevent overfishing. They do play an important role as attractive fishing and diving destinations, which means more hotel night stays, more restaurant meals served, and more demand for boats, tackle and fuel. All are great things for a small town like Mexico Beach that relies on visitors who travel to the area to enjoy beautiful beaches and great saltwater fishing.

Please visit the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association website at for new reef coordinates, membership information, upcoming events and fishing tournaments.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Let's break down how to modify one of the easiest and strongest line-to-leader connections when using heavy fluorocarbon or monofilament leader.

How to Modify Double Uni Connection for Heavy Leader

Jeff Weakley, editor of Florida Sportsman Magazine, breaks down how to tie a non-slip loop knot, an easy and useful fishing knot that every fisherman who uses artificial lures needs to know.

How to Tie a Loop Knot: Best Fishing Knot for Lures and Jigs

Jeff Weakley, editor of Florida Sportsman Magazine, breaks down the easiest way to tie one of the most versatile, strong and reliable fishing knots that every fisherman needs to know, the uni knot.

How to Tie a Uni Knot: Easy, Strong & Reliable Fishing Knot

The scented and flavored Gulp! baits are always a good choice in saltwater, and the Grub style baits in particular are a universal choice. Learn how to choose and rig different sizes for different kinds of fishing, from the flats to the coastal reefs. Plus, a Key West fishing expert weighs in on special uses for offshore fishing.

Berkley Gulp! Curly Tail Grub. Berkley Gulp! Grub is a Surprise Hit In Salt Water

In salt water, everything eats shrimp. The Berkley Gulp! Shrimp is an excellent choice for any situation where you want to appeal to a marine fish's interest in shrimp. Here's expert advice on rigging these unique baits, plus proven tips on casting and retrieving them. Storage is another great attribute; these shrimp baits are ready to go when you are!

Berkley Gulp! Shrimp: A Bait That's Better than Live Shrimp!

Join professional surf fishing guide Capt. Paul Sperco for a conversation about reels that hold up in extreme saltwater conditions. Sperco also offers great tips on rigging different kinds of spinning combos for catching pompano, whiting, snook and other popular fish. All of it is done from shore! Easy, fun fishing anyone can enjoy.

Penn Sealed Saltwater Reels: Durable Reels for Surf, Pier and Other Saltwater Fishing

We join Key West, Florida, fishing Captain Pepe Gonzalez to discuss one the most important advances in saltwater fishing tackle in the last 25 years: The advent of fluorocarbon leader material. Fluorocarbon definitely improves your chances of getting bites from wary-eyed ocean fish such as snappers, tunas, tarpon and sailfish.

Berkley Fluorocarbon line: Captains Say Use Fluorocarbon Leader to Catch More Fish

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now