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By CHAD CARNEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001
Artificial reefs are some of the most interesting places to dive. These man-made structures offer tremendous diversity of marine life and bottom structure.
Offshore of Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties are barge and shipwrecks, tanks, planes, bridge rubble, culvert, tire clusters, cement mixers, boat molds and boxcars, all intentionally put down to give shelter to marine creatures.
Our first artificial reefs started in 1961. Many sites have collapsed and broken up, but they seem to hold more fish than ever as the structure creates tighter protection and more coral and invertebrate growth takes hold.
Since artificial reefs are published by counties and private charts, they are often fished and dived, and the fish are wary. Free divers, quietly descending while holding their breath, often see large grouper and snapper outside wrecks and bottom structure. Scuba divers rarely catch a glimpse because the fish have learned to hide when they hear the noisy bubbles.
Having been afforded more than decade of protection, several jewfish, 50-400 pounds, occupy most artificial reefs. Divers should stay clear of these powerful fish.
Boaters, anglers and divers unintentionally contribute to the artificial reefs with a steady supply of lost anchors, fishing poles, gaff hooks, spears and other lost hardware.
- Chad Carney teaches scuba and spearfishing. Call (727) 423-7775.