8237843088?profile=RESIZE_710xReef balls are made by spraying concrete or gunite over rubber molds, with the intent of getting coral and sea fans to grow on them.

 

By Willie Howard

Country singer Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Reefs Foundation, CCA/Florida’s South Palm Beach County chapter and the Sandoway Discovery Center are teaming up to create an artificial reef off Delray Beach that should attract fish for anglers and scuba divers.

Thirteen concrete reef balls, each weighing 5 tons and rising 8 feet off the bottom, are expected to be placed on the ocean floor in about 65 feet of water off Delray’s public beach before the end of the year, weather permitting. The latest proposed construction date is the week of Dec. 14.

The 32-acre rectangular site that will hold the reef balls — and possibly a retired ship in the future — is a borrow site where sand was removed for beach restoration, creating a hole. Palm Beach County environmental officials secured permits that allow the site to accept artificial reef structures.

The No Shoes Reefs Foundation paid for construction of the reef balls. CCA/Florida’s South Palm Beach County chapter plans to pay for placing them on the ocean floor, using a $13,000 grant from Impact 100 Palm Beach County and $10,000 raised at a recent CCA banquet.

 

8237847489?profile=RESIZE_710xThe proposed site is in about 65 feet of water off the south end of Delray Beach’s public beach, near Anchor Park. Photos provided

 

Rodrigo Vera, president of CCA/Florida’s South Palm Beach County chapter and a Sandoway Discovery Center board member, hopes the 32-acre site will become a “marine park” used for education and recreation.

8237848888?profile=RESIZE_180x180Vera hopes to tie the marine park into the reef room at the Sandoway Discovery Center, which provides coastal environmental education to children.

He’s working on permits for a buoy that would float over the reef balls. The buoy would hold cameras that could provide live underwater video to the Sandoway Discovery Center and, via YouTube, to the world.

Vera, an avid scuba diver and fisherman, said the reef balls will be placed in the northeastern corner of the rectangular reef site and should become “the cornerstone for the rest of the marine park.”

Working through CCA/Florida, Vera has started raising money to buy, clean and sink a coastal freighter that could be scuttled at the reef site. He’s looking at a freighter in Miami called the M/V Hope that Vera said would fit perfectly into the hole left by dredging sand, creating a destination for fish, divers and anglers.

The estimated cost to buy, clean and sink the ship: $125,000.

A fundraising message on CCA/Florida’s website, ccaflorida.org, asks donors to “help CCA fund this 32-acre marine park reef off Delray Beach less than a mile from the Sandoway Discovery Center.”

 

Fishing regulations update

The daily bag limit for bluefish is now three per person in state and federal waters of Florida’s east coast.

The reason? A 2019 study showed that Atlantic populations of bluefish were overfished. The former bag limit was 10. The bluefish minimum size remains the same at 12 inches to the fork of the tail.

Separately, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission created an open season of May 1 to Aug. 31 (and established a three-fish daily bag limit) for blueline tilefish, matching regulations that apply in federal waters — beyond 3 miles off Florida’s east coast. The new tilefish regulations take effect Jan. 1.

A reminder: Hogfish season closed Nov. 1 and will reopen May 1 in state waters along Florida’s east coast and the Florida Keys.

 

Fish art contest

Students in grades K-12 are invited to draw or paint a fish and write a short related essay through the 2021 State Fish Art Contest.

It’s free to enter. Participants must submit a 9-by-12 horizontal work of art along with a one-page (or shorter) essay explaining their knowledge of or connection to their chosen fish. (The essay is not required for participants in grades K-3.)

A completed entry form is required. Submissions can be mailed or sent by email. The deadline is March 31.

The list of fish that can be depicted by artists includes familiar South Florida species such as Atlantic sailfish, mahi mahi, tarpon, bluegill and largemouth bass.
Details and pictures of the 2020 winners can be found at www.statefishart.org.

 

Tip of the month

For a quick refresher on methods for releasing fish that are not of legal size, are out of season or unwanted, visit www.catchandrelease.org.

 

Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at tiowillie@bellsouth.net.

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