Destin High fishing class raises funds for artificial reefs
The Destin High Fishing class is doing more than just dropping a line in the water. The students have raised enough money to drop 10 artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The goal was to raise $10,000, and by noon Saturday, the class had hit the mark.
“We exceeded our goal,” said Capt. Mike Parker, teacher of the fishing class.
The class held a fundraiser Saturday in the parking lot of Half Hitch Tackle in downtown Destin selling everything from rods and reels, tackle, T-shirts, fishing trips and vacation stays donated by Ocean Reef.
The cost to drop 10 reefs is $20,000 but Alex Fogg, the Coastal Resource Manager for Okaloosa County said that if the class could raise $10,000, they would match and deploy the reefs.
“This was a huge undertaking by them, so we’re happy to make it happen,” Fogg said.
The reefs will be anywhere between 8 and 18 feet tall, Fogg said, noting they have yet to work through the logistics.
“But this is a great project, a one-of-a-kind project. Nobody else is doing it,” Fogg said.
Right now, they are looking to deploy the reefs in May or June.
“It depends on other projects,” Fogg said.
Fogg is looking to marry the Destin High project along with three other projects.
“The contractor is not going to mobilize for 10 reefs,” Fogg said from an economic standpoint.
"We’ve got three other projects happening at the same time, so we’ll put all of them on the boat at the same time,” Fogg said.
The Destin High reefs will most likely be shaped like a pyramid, Parker said.
“They’ll draw all your reef fish … red snapper, grouper, triggerfish,” Parker said.
The exact location for Destin HIgh's reefs has yet to be decided, state or federal waters.
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“He (Fogg) is going to designate a certain area off that will be the Destin High reef haven,” Parker said.
The reefs will be custom made with some bearing the name of a donor as a memorial reef. The cost for a memorial reef was $1,000 and the class had $8,000 in donations toward those.
As part of the reef project, Parker took the fishing class in November to Walter Marine in Orange Beach, Alabama, one of the largest reef builders in the United States.
“I wanted them to know about reef making and the importance of reefs to the fishery,” Parker said.
“They got to see first-hand how they build them and how they deploy them … how the crane lifts them and how heavy they are,” he said.
The reef project is something Parker plans to do with the fishing class each year.
“I don’t know how many we will be able to come up with each year, but we’ve had such a good response, I think it will be an annual event for the fishing class to deploy reefs every year,” Parker said.
The response not only came from the local community, but from people seeing it on Facebook.
“I had people send checks from out of area … they believe in the project,” Parker said.
Capt. John Nutton of Panama City heard about the project and donated $2,000 to the reef program.
Fogg is excited about the fishing class’ undertaking.
“It’s exciting to see the young local community involved in creating habitats for fishing and diving,” Fogg said.
“It really just goes to show how much traction this program (reef building) is getting … to break the norm and lead the state in all kinds of artificial reef activity,” he said.