New Artificial Reef to Be Installed South of Oregon Inlet
There is always room for improvement and, even though the Outer Banks offshore fishing is considered excellent, steps are being take to improve on that.
In April of this year, the Outer Banks Angler’s Club was awarded an $882,000 grant to create a new artificial reef eight miles south of Oregon Inlet.
The new reef, designated AR-165 by NC Marine Fisheries, will join four other artificial reefs off the Outer Banks coastline.
According to the OBAC the new reef will be created by sinking a decommissioned 100’ ship and adding 2000 tons of assorted concrete pipe and an additional 6000 tons of concrete blocks. If needed a second ship can be sunk at the site.
The grant was awarded by NC Marine Fisheries and came from money created through the sale of coastal recreational fishing licenses.
Dare County, and the Outer Banks in general, generates over $1 million dollars annually in license revenue, second only to Wake County with a population approaching one million residents.
In addition to the new reef, NC Marine Fisheries seems to be improving and upgrading the artificial reefs off the Outer Banks.
As part of the Bonner Bridge replacement project, scrap materials from the Bonner Bridge (when it is demolished) will be added to the existing four reefs. The material will be cleaned and inspected before being placed in the ocean—a necessary step after years of use as a primary transportation link.
There are 42 artificial reefs off the North Carolina coast, as well as a number of estuarine reefs in the state’s sounds, bays and coastal rivers. Most of those are oyster reefs.
Although the Gulf Stream gets all of the headlines for offshore excursions, the nearer shore waters also offer a wonderful opportunity for fishing. Reefs provide a rich habitat for sea life. Certainly gamefish are an important part of that, but the game fish are there because of the biodiversity created by new reef.
Typically a reef is imagined as an underwater coral structure that is home to an extraordinary array of sea life. However, that type of structure is very rare north of Florida along the Atlantic coast.
There are reefs—for the most part limestone outcroppings, but overall the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean along the North Carolina shoreline is sandy.
When an artificial reef is introduced, a process begins that is predictable yet a tribute to the power of nature.
As currents strike the new structure, upwelling occurs, creating a plankton-rich environment. With a reliable food source at hand, a number of smaller species take up residence, the species that are considered bait fish—sardines, pinfish.
As the bait fish increase, pelagic or predator species appear—sharks, especially in North Carolin waters, tuna if the waters are warm enough. Some of the more opportunistic predators may also appear—amber jack, as an example.
Over time the structure becomes populated with species that seek hiding places, such as grouper, eels, snapper and triggerfish move in.
Artificial reefs create a superb habitat for offshore fishing. They also result in a diver’s delight—an environment rich with marine life and color.
There is some debate about whether artificial reefs increase biodiversity and the biomass of species (whether there is more of them), or if species shift location without increasing their numbers. Either way, properly installed with the right material, artificial reefs have been shown to benefit the environment and to be powerful resource for fishing and diving.