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Vol 37 | Num 7 | Jun 13, 2012

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Straight from the MD DNR Fisheries Service

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A SNAPSHOT OF ARTIFICIAL REEFS IN MARYLAND’S COASTAL WATERS

The first official day of summer is still a little more than a week away, but sport fishermen in Ocean City are already in full swing summer mode. Our fishermen know the best fishing will be found where fish species utilize various types of habitat. Inshore, the labyrinth of channels, ditches and underwater swales of shifting sandbars provides habitat for flounder, bluefish, striped bass, sea trout and many other species. In addition to naturally occurring habitats, manmade structures such as the Rt. 50 bridge pilings, the north and south jetties of the inlet and shoreline bulkheading provides supplementary structure for many fish species. The three-dimensional aspect of natural and manmade structures and the variations in bottom contour provide shelter and feeding opportunities for marine organisms.

Offshore habitats are dominated by a vast expanse of sand bottom, accented by nearshore shoals such as Isle of Wight, Great Gull, Little Gull, Fenwick Shoal and the Bass Grounds. Further offshore, more prominent, knoll-like structures such as the Fingers, Hambone, Chicken Bone and the Jackspot can be found 25 to 50 miles from the beach.

These nearshore and offshore locations all share the same essential characteristics of sand and silty-sand three-dimensional rises. They are all locations that fishermen, both sport and commercial target because of the affinity fish have shown for these areas.

Manmade Habitat for Fish

In addition to the natural features that occur off our coastline, fishermen also appreciate the value of manmade 3-D structure for fish and fishing. There are dozens of wrecks off the Maryland coast, some as close as just a few miles out, and others which are much deeper, in several hundred feet of water. Shipwrecks such as the Washingtonian, the Palmer, African Queen and Marine Electric have long been destinations for sport fishermen embarking from Ocean City. Based upon the success of fishermen angling at these wrecks, fishery managers, charter captains and sport fishermen have collaborated to create sites where materials could be placed to provide three-dimensional relief off the bottom, creating habitat for marine life including highly sought after sport fish species.

Maryland’s Permitted Artificial Reefs

Ten artificial reef sites have been permitted in Maryland’s coastal waters. Permits in Maryland state waters, out to 3 miles offshore, are approved by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment and approved by Maryland’s Board of Public Works (see summary at end of article). Reefs in Federal waters, from 3-200 miles offshore, are approved by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Four of Maryland’s coastal reefs are located in Maryland’s state jurisdictional waters (within 3 nautical miles of the Maryland coast), and the remaining six reefs are located in Federal waters (3-200 nautical miles offshore). The reefs are permitted to the Town of Ocean City and materials are placed by the Ocean City Reef Foundation (OCRF), a 501-C-3 non-profit foundation which is funded by donations. Some reef projects have been accomplished through collaboration with the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI). Examples include the placement of retired New York City subway cars and the decommissioned Navy Destroyer, Arthur S. Radford. Today, these reef sites are major destinations for sport fishermen and sport divers.

To learn more about statewide artificial reef activities in Maryland, please visit the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) at http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/reefs/index.asp
We’ll have a separate story on the collaborative, super reef created with the ex-Naval Destroyer Arthur Radford in a future article.

How You Can Help

Development of Maryland’s coastal artificial reefs would not be possible without the efforts and coordination of volunteers. These include Captain Monty Hawkins on the “Morning Star”, a strong advocate for habitat enhancement on Maryland’s coast, who donates time and resources to fundraise, deploy materials to build up the reef sites off Maryland’s coast and make others aware of the benefits of reef building. Funding for coastal artificial reef projects is provided by the Ocean City Reef Foundation (OCRF), a 501-C-3 tax exempt foundation. To learn more about the OCRF, obtain more detailed location information for reef structure, or support the foundation with a donation, visit http://www.ocreeffoundation.com/

If you have any questions regarding fishing or fisheries management in Ocean City and Maryland’s Atlantic coast, please contact Keith Lockwood: klockwood@dnr.state.md.us or call 410-226-0078.
Following is a summary of the 10 artificial reef sites permitted in Maryland’s coastal waters:

Kelly’s Reef (Little Gull)
•   Date permitted – 2005
•   3.0 miles from inlet
•   General location = 3 miles southeast of R-4 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 16' 36.54" / 75° 04' 31.24"
•   Size in acres = 467.2
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, including concrete, designed units, obsolete vessels, barge, concrete.

Russell’s Reef (Great Gull)
•   Date permitted – 1993
•   3.0 miles from inlet
•   General location = 4.2 miles southeast of R-2 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 16' 06.15" / 75° 01' 48.20"
•   Size in acres = 998.4
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, designed units, vessels, concrete.

Jackspot Reef
•   Date permitted – 2004
•   19.1 miles from inlet
•   General location = 19 miles southeast of R-2 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 05' 25.63" / 74° 48' 43.65"
•   Size in acres = 147.2
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, designed units, vessels, concrete, subway cars.

Research Reef
•   Date permitted – 2005
•   7.0 miles from inlet
•   General location = 7.5 miles east-northeast of R-4 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 19' 24.63" / 74° 56' 22.84"
•   Size in acres = 304
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items.

African Queen Reef
•   Date permitted – 1994
•   12.1 miles from inlet
•   General location = 13 miles southeast of R-2 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 09' 04.71"/ 74° 57' 11.71"
•   Size in acres = 800
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, designed units, concrete, vessels.

Isle of Wight Reef
•   Date permitted – 2005
•   6.2 miles from inlet
•   General location = 6 miles northeast of R-4 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 22' 54.50" / 74° 58' 42.51"
•   Size in acres = 90
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, designed units, concrete, subway cars.

Bass Grounds Reef
•   Date permitted – 1997
•   8.4 miles from inlet
•   General location = 9 miles east of R-2 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 17' 45.34" / 74° 54' 39.18"
•   Size in acres = 878.1
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, designed units, concrete, vessels, subway cars.

Purnell’s Reef
•   Date permitted – 1997
•   2.1 miles from inlet
•   General location = 2 miles northeast of R-4 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 21' 00.01" / 75° 03' 30.00"
•   Size in acres = 413.2
•   General listing of materials placed: donated items, designed units, concrete, vessels.

Great Eastern Reef (Twin Wrecks area)
•   Date permitted – 1999
•   18.1 miles from inlet
•   General location = 20 miles southeast of R-2 buoy.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 12' 30.03" / 74° 43' 54.03"
•   Size in acres = 1011.2
•   General listing of materials placed: materials of opportunity, designed units, concrete, vessels.

Mason’s Reef (Isle of Wight Bay)
•   Date permitted – 2003
•   1.0 miles from inlet
•   General location = IOW Bay, off Bulkhead, between 2nd and 4th Streets.
•   GPS center point coordinates: 38° 20' 09.48" / 75° 05' 19.22"
•   Size in acres = 0.92
General listing of materials placed: Designed units, 4 piles of 6 pyramids.


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