It has been many years since a new artificial reef was created within New York State waters. Some of us would say, way too many years especially when reading the stories of other states to the south of New York, not only making new, but expanding their artificial reefs most notably with materials in our own backyard.
What I have come to learn, and much thanks here to Captain Monty Hawkins, owner and operator of the fv MORNING STAR out of Ocean City, Maryland is that artificial reef building has been going on for decades, and in New York waters the first artificial reefs go back more then a half of a century.
In doing further research about artificial reefs I was fortunate to come across a neat little book which Captain John F. Bogan mailed to me a few years back. It happened to be published surprisingly by the American Littoral Society from a senior thesis from 1963.
It is hard to believe when one thinks back to fishing post World War II and the incredible fishing during the late 1940's and 1950's, yet there were many states including the newly formed state of Hawaii where artificial reef projects were started, and in quoting from the book:
During the 7 years since 1957, the Hawaiian Fish & Game division, under the direction of Michio Takata has conducted a series of reef projects that appear to be highly successful in attracting fish to otherwise sparsely populated areas in Hawaiian coastal waters.
Would any fishermen here think that Hawaii would have areas which are termed "sparsely populated" in terms of fish within their "coastal waters?"
There has been a recognition of attracting more fish to within various states around this nation, near shore waters, and artificial reef building was recognized as the way for those states to not only improve the marine environment off their shores, but in doing so, provide greater fishing opportunities for fishing operations and anglers alike.
Getting back to the Empire State and their artificial reef program, we have on record a long and pretty unique history of how it started here off Long Island.
- 1st recognized A.R. was accidently made when a storm rolled a barge loaded with bricks off Makamah Beach in Northport (noted as 50 years prior to the publication of this book)
- 1st purposely made A.R. was the "BUTTER TUB" reef made after the Makamah Reef by sinking wooden butter tubs filled with concrete
- McAllister Grounds in 1950, first dedicated A.R. where several barge loads of broken masonry debris deployed off of Jones Inlet
- 1953 the F&M Schaefer Brewing Co. of L.I. donated 14,000 wooden beer cases, (sans the adult beverages one would imagine at that time) to charter captains from Captree (Fire Island)
- Original Fire Island Ocean Reef, started ESE of Fire Island Inlet, whose reef print would be designated a mile long by fifty feet wide, with a relief of between 10-14 feet by using 72,000 cubic yards of building debris and concrete blocks (the reason for building the reef that high was seen with the previous low lying reef being sanded over after two years)
In fact the 'Fishing Reef at Fire Island' was a coordinated effort by the Captree Boatmen's Association, Babylon LI Tuna Club and the Sportman's Council. By 1962 they were able to again have F&M Schaefer Brewing of LI along with Moran Towing & Transportation to transport the first two barge loads of blasted rock and broken concrete to a designated area "dump zone."
What is noted is that the 'Schaefer Reef' became a project continuously worked upon during the early 1960's by the Captree Boatmen's Artificial Reef Committee, where after the for-hire fleet returned to Captree in the afternoon, blocks and other debris (use your imagination here) were loaded onto the party and charter boats, driven off south east of Fire Island and dumped over a A.R. that was marked out to now be 1200 feet long.
From that time, A.R. sites were created after the first Fire Island Reef for fishing now out of Jones, Debs and Rockaway Inlet during the later 1960's, along with the first purposely scuttled shipwrecks, barges, a tug, draggers, ferries and drydocks being sunk during the 1970's. Other local south shore A.R.'s were created within the Great South Bay, and Long Island Sound.
But the A.R. program has been relatively quiet over the past years, with no new artificial reefs being created other then the Fishing Line Artificial Reef which was deployed roughly on top of the level out McAllister Grounds. Other projects deployed more artificial reef material to a bare handful of existing reefs over a decade ago, one given the nickname the "Wall" due to the height it comes off the bottom.
So where are we at now with the NYS artificial reef program? Crickets?
Hopefully there will be progress made in the near future as NYS has various shovel-ready bridge projects online and coming to fruition in the coming years with the Tappan Zee, Koscuisko, and Outerbridge coming down, and the various materials from these structures needing a new home, or as reef builders would say, "re-purposed", instead ending up in some garbage dump.
Lets get it started in talking about creating new A.R.'s here in NYS. Others have led the way in their states, and I remind you of a legendary fishing captain, now passed away who believed in creating more fishing structure for the fishing and diving community.
Let's try to pay it forward fishermen!