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Old 09-06-2013, 05:47 PM   #1
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Default Personal observations for non-divers

Hey Folks, below are my personal observations, they're antidotal only!

I've been diving a few years now and I try to dive only small artificial stuff. I get asked periodically by people what wrecks to build and where. This is my personal observations. This is antidotal only.
First, let me begin with the Steel Pyramids with the 8-12 inch steel lattice. I personally wish I knew where everyone of those where....so I'd never accidentally dive one again. My observations: they hold 1-2 BIG snapper, lots of super tiny snapper and lots of very short Jacks, Are there exceptions, I'm sure. Once I dove one in 155 feet and it had one decent grouper. Just one...and lot's of....you guessed it.....tiny little snapper. We shot the grouper so to the best of my knowledge it now holds ONLY tiny little snapper. My Personal favorite: School Buses or Conversion Vans. especially after they've aged some. Once they start to settle into the sand, they form caves that grouper love. My personal observation is, if you want grouper, give them a "cave" with a sand bottom. They love it. some examples of where I've seen my best grouper are a Conversion Van in 145. to the SSE. a School Bus ROOF...that's right, a roof only. it had a relief of 1 foot or less, almost impossible to see on the bottom machine but the grouper had dug out from under it forming a 3 foot tall cave and it was loaded with shooters.
other favorites are old boat hulls, one of the best was one loaded with shopping carts that'd hit and landed upside down with one side being supported by the carts, forming...yep, a cave, Saw some quality grouper off of that one for years until one day I took some newbies out there and they stuck their heads under it trying to get a better look. they exhaled enough air that it flipped it and while it was still quite large, it didn't change the size at all, it no longer had the cave and never held grouper again. Also, had a bit ole Chevy 4 door sedan that landed upside down with no trunk lid so the trunk section now formed a cave. More of the same, lots and lots of grouper. I have seen exceptions to this, once I found a "bread rack", very similar to a chicken coop but bigger, I didn't have the total "cover" nor the "cave" but I saw some huge gag there. Never did figure that one out. The most grouper I've EVER seen on a single spot (with the exception of the when the hurricane came through in the early 90's and blew them in all the way to Rod and Reel Pier, was on Tires, nothing but tires, and hundreds of them!

The number was one that a buddy of mine had gotten from a close friend of his who was a Charter Captain. He'd wanted it dove to see WHAT on Earth could hold so many grouper...in 120 feet of water at that! It turned out to be auto tires, probably about 150-200. to this date, they still make as good as anything for reef other then they sand up bad. (or was ashore on RARE occasions in hurricanes)

Another good grouper wreck I've seen recently is a fiberglass "dome" maybe the end of a 1000 gallon tank cut off. Had holes about 1-2 ft in diameter cut in various places for entry and exit holes. Looked kinda like an igloo on the bottom. and awesome spot!

even chicken coops which seem to be one of the most favorable reefs of recent can be drastically altered by HOW it lands, shelves horizontal or vertical. Then add some CHEAP flagging, like polypropylene rope with a float, maybe even 20-30 feet or more off the bottom and it woiuld AMAZE you at the difference in fish species.

I saw another thread here were a fella had built and deployed a reef which he'd obviously spent MUCH time and energy to deploy and I applaud that but at the same time, with just a few modifications, I believe it could've easily doubled it's fish production.

it was a Pipe Frame, but as pictured I saw nowhere for bait to hide which I believe is essential for population growth. Bait seem to like small crevices to escape predator fish. I remember an old timer gave me a number for a boat hull that he'd said was OUT OF THIS WORLD for snapper. At the time, it was. It wasn't in a super secret spot it wasn't on superior bottom type for snapper (and types of bottoms could be another three page post as in what type to pick for which species)
it had one "secret" weapon, He'd found some old antique bed springs. You know, the exposed kind with no cloth. THAT was his secret. and they were LOADED with minnows. The minnows couldn't leave by much without risk of being eaten and the snapper couldn't get to them. so it made the reef more of an equal playing field.

so to sum it all up, for grouper and in my opinion ONLY. you want a wreck that gives 100% overhead protection with a sand bottom and multiple escape routes.

Hope some of this seems useful to you fishermen. Other factors to consider which I didn't mention here include bottom type (Sandy, muddy, rocky, shells) and depth, and even direction East vs West out of the pass and time of year, not just for weather patterns of what you can reach but how the fish move about with the change in temperature.
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:02 AM   #2
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This is an awesome post. I can't believe it has been up so long without props?

So ..Thanks for sharing.!!! Awesome.
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Old 09-27-2013, 12:41 AM   #3
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Thanks man!

My thought is, if people are going to invest the time and energy in building new spots they should make them the best they can be!


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Originally Posted by Eastern Tackle View Post
This is an awesome post. I can't believe it has been up so long without props?

So ..Thanks for sharing.!!! Awesome.
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:14 PM   #4
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May be anecdotal but when collected by an unbiased trained observer can be very valuable. Also when a number of observers concur with yours, they at some point become facts. Beyond reasonable doubt.

The pyramids with steel panels (I think they are called Florida Specials by Walter Marine) are like snowflakes. The openings in the panels depend of the shape and size of the objects cut out of the panel---bush hog blades, squares, rectangles etc. Not all are created equal. In my experience, the limestone panels are superior at least for snapper. In several years of fishing both types, I have caught a handful of gags and 2 red grouper so I would concur that they are not grouper friendly. However there are some other pyramids with circular openings in concrete panels that have over the years sunk into the bottom so only maybe half of the pyramid is exposed. We have taken bunches of gags off these pyramids even though they are tiny. Reference your comments about low relief and small size like tires.

Gags are few and far between in our area especially close to the pass. Go to the Destin Log and look at the fish pictures from the charter fleet and you will see lots of mingos, AJs, bunches of white snappers (red porgies) and very few gags. It will likely take a close call with a hurricane to get red and gag grouper back in numbers. The west panhandle lacks the grass beds to produce lots of juvenile gags and we don't have a clear path for growth and transfer from shallow to deep water

Thanks for the report and maybe others will come on here with their anecdotal comments.
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Old 09-27-2013, 03:45 PM   #5
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I agree with this. Grouper love cover and sandy bottom. I've seen I-beam pyramids with zero grouper. I've seen the same structure with the addition of tires on the vertical beams and several grouper. I've smashed my ear in the sand looking under some of the public wrecks, just enough opening to get a flashlight and an eyeball under. There they are. I'm scared to shoot them for fear of not getting them (or my spear) back out.
I also agree with the "bed spring" theory. Bait fish do need a shelter from the larger predatory fish.

Adding the rope fad to the structure will bring AJ, and Pelagics which would never stop there without it.

Just my humble observations added to what has the makings of a great thread.
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Old 09-27-2013, 05:04 PM   #6
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Awesome info, thanks for taking the time to collect and share.
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Old 09-27-2013, 05:34 PM   #7
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Wirelessly posted (Not the droid youre lookin for)

This is interesting. Not being a diver I still enjoy what everyone else sees and does down there.
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:04 AM   #8
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I would have to agree 100%. There is just a few things that would make some of these wreck go from ok to 5 star. I fish a lot and dive a little. I would have to say this post is hitting the nail on the head. Wish they would post this at all the reef permitting offices. We would need half the wrecks out there, but there would be twice as many fish.
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:34 AM   #9
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You are right about too many reefs in a small area. We finally got some small areas permitted for reefs off Destin---they are 1 mile square. The problem is that they are oversaturated with Florida Specials and Limestone Walter's modules. Apparently it is much easier to get grants for reefs than get large areas permitted. Based on my experience I think the minimum spacing between artificial reefs is at least 1000 ft. Snapper especially need plenty of real estate for forage grounds and only use the reefs for shelter and an assembly point for spawning.

There are very large areas off the Panhandle that have no natural reefs. They are not used by any other user group such as shrimpers so there is no reason why they should not be permitted for artificial reefs. We all know how successful the program has been in Alabama which has over 1000 square miles permitted. When I looked into this several years ago I was told that the areas already permitted were underexploited----as though some underling in the CORP knew more about snapper biology that the scientific community. Fishermen don't use the permitted areas because their spots will be found in no time by others to lazy to drop their own reefs.

We have a chance now to use some BP money to finally quantify the extent of natural reefs using side scan sonar. Then to follow that up with research to better understand how reef size, design and spacing should be optimized for various species of reef fish.
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Old 09-29-2013, 12:17 PM   #10
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Man, you make some excellent points!

I know areas were there are at LEAST 5 different chicken coops within a couple hundred yards of each other.

One thing about reefs they are a quasi biosphere and they can only support so much life, it might be trigger, it might be snapper, it might be grouper ....heck it might even be lionfish!

From my experience, even the best reefs will hold only the fish that it can draw bait to sustain.

when you have reefs so closely populated, as you pointed out, then you'll supersaturate the area

And Capt Delynn, I've seen your hauls of fish!! thanks for the kind words! Don't suppose you'd share one or two to those GROUPER spots?

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Originally Posted by snake 166 View Post
You are right about too many reefs in a small area. We finally got some small areas permitted for reefs off Destin---they are 1 mile square. The problem is that they are oversaturated with Florida Specials and Limestone Walter's modules. Apparently it is much easier to get grants for reefs than get large areas permitted. Based on my experience I think the minimum spacing between artificial reefs is at least 1000 ft. Snapper especially need plenty of real estate for forage grounds and only use the reefs for shelter and an assembly point for spawning.

There are very large areas off the Panhandle that have no natural reefs. They are not used by any other user group such as shrimpers so there is no reason why they should not be permitted for artificial reefs. We all know how successful the program has been in Alabama which has over 1000 square miles permitted. When I looked into this several years ago I was told that the areas already permitted were underexploited----as though some underling in the CORP knew more about snapper biology that the scientific community. Fishermen don't use the permitted areas because their spots will be found in no time by others to lazy to drop their own reefs.

We have a chance now to use some BP money to finally quantify the extent of natural reefs using side scan sonar. Then to follow that up with research to better understand how reef size, design and spacing should be optimized for various species of reef fish.
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