Coops … not just for chickens anymore

Michael Scott making fish homes one coop at a time

Tina Harbuck
The Michael Scott can take out as many as 24 chicken coops at the time to be dumped for artificial fishing reefs. [FOR REEL PHOTOS/SPECIAL TO THE LOG]

It may not carry anglers fishing, but it is made for fishing … fishing houses of sorts.

The Michael Scott, a 65-foot vessel, was built about 12 years ago strictly to carry materials out to build fishing reefs.

The barge-like boat is owned by a group of local charter boat captains and is leased on a daily basis for those wanting to take materials out to be dumped to make a fishing reef.

“Reef building is the life blood of charter fishing,” said Capt. Kelly Windes, who recently retired from fishing after 40 years at the helm. “We’ve put many a snapper wreck out there over the last few years.”

The Michael Scott makes a haul out about twice a month, 10 hours each, and can take as many as 24 chicken coops in one haul. And with that one lode of coops, they can make as many as 12 fishing spots, Windes said.

“We furnish the captain and the mate,” Windes said to make the trip.

And the boat is open to be leased by charter captains as well as private boat owners.

However, the materials used to build reefs have to fall within Okaloosa County guidelines.

“We have requirements and (the materials) have to be inspected … they are highly scrutinized,” Windes said.

Some of the most common things dumped for reefs are chicken coops and concrete cement mixers.

Plus there is a $25 permit that is required from the county in order to dump a reef.

As for the name Michael Scott, Windes said it was named after Michael Scott Gilchrist, who died about 12 or 14 years ago. Gilchrist, who stood about 6-foot-4 and weighed about 300 pounds, was a friend to many of the guys in the fishing fleet.

“He fished with me for years and was a good friend,” Windes said.

“He was a workhorse, a big strong man,” Windes said, a lot like the reef hauling vessel. “It was just a way of remembering a good friend.”