Despite a small coastline with few natural reefs or other structure, the
state of Mississippi
embarked upon a program to improve fishing artificially -- with some help from
The state of Mississippi
conducts three different artificial reef programs to build marine habitat and
enhance recreational fishing -- inshore reefs, offshore reefs and converting
old oil platforms to fish habitat. The state established 67 inshore reefs
between the Alabama and the Louisiana
state lines including some in Bay St. Louis and the Back Bay of Biloxi, also
called Biloxi Bay.
"Most of the inshore reefs are made out of limestone or crushed concrete,"
explained Kerwin Cuevas with the Artificial Reef
Program of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi. "We put limestone out and it provides
a surface where oysters can attach themselves. This creates a living reef. Many
anglers in Mississippi
take advantage of fishing these reefs because the rocks create habitat for a
variety of species. Fish come to that reef and forage on small fish and other
species. That brings in bigger fish."
When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast
in August 2005, it left a massive trail of destruction and scattered debris all
across the Southeast. Rather than dump concrete chunks in landfills, the state
used some of that debris to build Katrina Reef and other fisheries habitat.
Comprised mainly of chunks from the old U.S. 90 bridge
that once connected Biloxi to Ocean Springs
before Katrina flattened it, Katrina Reef protrudes from the water just
offshore from Biloxi in Mississippi
Sound. It stretches about a mile long.
"Each reef is a fish oasis," said Capt. Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing
Fishing Charters (228-342 2206/http://www.shorethingcharters.com/)
in the town of Bay St. Louis.
"They get a lot of pressure, but the reefs all hold fish. The reefs have really
taken off for big speckled trout, redfish and sheepshead.
Some extend above the water. Others are just crushed rocks. I wish the state
would line the entire coast with artificial reefs because they are such good
places to fish. We don't have a lot of other natural structure on the beaches."
Close to the Louisiana line, the state
established Jailhouse Reef in Mississippi Sound near Buccaneer State Park
outside Waveland with debris from a prison demolished by Katrina. Several other
good fishing reefs in this area include Bayou Caddy Reef, also built in 2006
with Katrina debris, and nearby Taylor Reef, which dates to 2002.
Outside the barrier islands in water 20- to 130 feet deep, the state also
established 14 offshore reefs. These reefs consist of concrete rubble,
culverts, old barges, boats, derelict ships, large limestone chunks, and other
materials. They provide habitat for a variety of reef fish including red
snapper, various grouper species and roving predators such as Spanish mackerel,
king mackerel and cobia.
In the Rigs to Reefs program, the federal government requires oil companies
to remove old drilling platforms down to 15 feet below the mud bottom. The oil
companies can take these platforms to shore for scrap or clean them up and
donate them to the state for reef building material.
"Artificial reefs are very important to our recreational fishermen," Cuevas
said. "We want to make sure anglers enjoy the reefs. We solicit input from
fishermen on where they would like to see us build new reefs because they know
the best spots to place these reefs."
For more information about the Mississippi Artificial Reef program and for
locations of reefs, see www.dmr.ms.gov/marine-fisheries/artificial-reef.
To suggest an area where the state can build new artificial reefs, contact
Cuevas at 228-523-4061.
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