Fishermen remember Ricks, hold off on revealing reef (PHOTOS)

Tina Harbuck
The reef, formerly known as Baby J's, is drawing plenty of fish but is not ready to be revealed to the public.

It was a last minute decision, but the coordinates for the AJ’s/Carey Ricks Memorial Reef were not released Sunday evening.

“We made a joint decision,” Alan Laird of AJ’s told those gathered on the docks for the memorial service for Ricks, a long time fishermen and friend of the community.

Laird, along with the Rick’s family and Capt. Jim Westbrook who helped to deploy the reef, decided to wait until at least May 22, the anniversary of Carey’s birthday, to release the numbers.

“We waited 10 years to find a good reef for Carey, let’s wait a little longer,” Westbrook said to release the coordinates.

The reason — “It’s totally immature,” Westbrook said.

“I’ve built hundreds of wrecks,” said Westbrook, who hauled out his first reef with Capt. Joe Taylor in 1982.

“And we leave ’em for three years before we even look at it,” he said. “What could it do to wait another year or least until next summer?”

On Sept. 22, 2011, to mark AJ's 10-year milestone hosting the Destin Fishing Rodeo, Laird took the former water vessel and popular restaurant Baby J's, stripped it down and with the help of the Emerald Coast Reef Association, created a reef that is now the home to a large variety of fish 100 feet below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, a couple of divers from Louisiana dove the reef, took photos and video and were quite impressed with all the bait fish and life on the reef.

“It had good juvenile fish on it … thousands on it,” Westbrook said.

“If Carey could see it he would be pleased. But if it were up to me, I’d recommend that we not release the coordinates for another six months to two years,” he said, adding that it takes about three years for a reef to produce.

He explained the first year is for growth, the second is to attract juvenile fish and the third year is harvest time.

“We did a good job on the location,” Laird said. “There are 150,000 fish on it, but they are all adolescent fish.”

After viewing the video and talking with the Ricks family, the decision was made to wait to release the numbers.

“He would be proud of the reef,” said Mary Ellen Ricks, mother of the late Carey.